Victorian election micro-parties
Former senator Derryn Hinch (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

We’ve crunched the numbers and reports, and our calculations show that Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is well-placed to benefit from minor and micro-party preferences in Victorian upper house contests.

This is contrary to a claim made by Senator Hinch in an interview with The Age earlier this week. Hinch told Age reporters Royce Millar and Ben Schneiders that Glenn “the preference whisperer” Druery’s efforts to pull together a preference swap deal in the Legislative Council could work against his party’s interests.

The complicated voting system in the Victorian Legislative Council makes any prediction of the result a “guesstimate” at best. But, based on the registered how-to-vote tickets held by the Victorian Electoral Commission, we have conducted an analysis of preference flows in each of the Legislative Council regions to generate the following scenarios.

Northern Victoria

In the 2014 election the fifth spot in the Northern Victorian division was taken by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFP) candidate Daniel Young. Young has the advantage of incumbency in 2018 and a small but committed local base. The SFP might retain the fifth seat as Young has been allocated preference flows from the Liberal-National coalition and the DLP ticket as well as from several of the minor parties who are unlikely to make a quota in their own right.

However, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party is in pole position to collect micro-party preferences; Young is only in eighth spot in the top 10 preference flows. This is likely to be a tight contest with Young perhaps marginally in front because of the big block of votes he can expect from the Liberals, if he is in front of the Hinch candidate at that point.

Western Victoria

This year, the incumbent, James Purcell of Vote 1 Local Jobs is not standing in Western Victoria; he has transferred to the Northern Metropolitan region, which he is unlikely to win. His absence means the final seat in this division is up for grabs.

Given it is largely a regional and rural seat it is likely that a conservative, rather than the Greens, will win the fifth seat. On the basis of preference allocations, the Hinch candidate, Stuart Grimley, is in a position to do very well by collecting preferences from the Shooters, Transport Matters and the Liberal Democrats. However, if he can stay in he race until the later rounds of counting, the Shooters’ candidate, Geoff Collins, could be the early favourite as he is likely to pick up the bulk of Liberal-National preferences.

Northern Metropolitan

The incumbent in the fifth seat for this division is Fiona Patten of the Reason Party and there was an expectation that she would be battling with the newly-formed Victorian Socialists for this final berth. However, it is perhaps in this seat — covering the northwestern metropolitan fringes of Melbourne, but also incorporating Green heartland in Northcote, Brunswick, Coburg and Preston — where Glenn Druery’s preference whispering may bear the most fruit.

While both Fiona Patten and Socialist candidate Stephen Jolley have publicly insisted they did not do a deal with Druery, it is clear from our analysis of likely preference flows that Hinch-aligned candidates could do very well. Twelve of the 20 published “How to Vote” cards — including the ALP’s split ticket in this division — place Hinch’s candidates in the top bracket for micro-party preference flows.

Transport Matters, the Health Australia Party, Shooters Fishers and Farmers, and the Liberal Democrats are all preferencing Hinch’s Justice Party above everyone else including Fiona Patten. This is a classic example of how vote harvesting is supposed to work. While the Shooters might be an outside chance to finish ahead of DHJP, the more probable scenario is that preferences will fall to Hinch candidate Carmela Dagiandis. Liberal preferences will almost certainly flow to Dagiandis ahead of either Patten or Jolley, and DHJP is also in a position to harvest Labor votes given the ticket splits preferences between Reason and the Socialists.

If Hinch’s candidate can finish ahead of them on first preferences, either Labor or Liberal preferences could secure Hinch the fifth spot ahead of both Patten and Jolly. Despite a massive turn-out of volunteers in door-knocking almost the entire region, there is very little chance that Stephen Jolley can be elected; he has been placed close to the bottom on most tickets, well below Reason and the Hinch groups.

Eastern Metro

There could be a substantial shake-up in this region as the Transport Matters candidate, Rod Barton, has secured important preference flows from most of the other micro-parties, as well as from the Greens and Hinch tickets.

The Andrews government has come under criticism in this region because its otherwise popular program of rail level-crossing removal has used an above ground method of replacement, colloquially known as “sky rail” which locals are not happy about. Given that, it is astonishing that the ALP would also give allocate preferences straight to Transport Matters.

However, we cannot rule out a preference surge for the Hinch ticket either if their candidate can finish in front of Barton in the early elimination counts.

Western Metro

The preference deal for the Hinch ticket also looks favourable in the Western Metropolitan region where it comes out just ahead of Reason in the top 10 preference flows. However, the main beneficiary of the preference swap deal appears to be the Aussie Battler Party which has been highly preferenced by a majority of the other candidates and the Liberals have put them near the bottom of their ticket indicating they might see the Battlers as a threat.

There could also be a spoiler in this division; the Liberal Democrats polled well in 2014 and could harvest enough preferences in the later elimination rounds to overtake Hinch and the Battlers.

Southeastern Metro

Preference swaps in this region could also see Transport Matters take fifth spot. The party candidate, Dr Ali Khan, is at the top of the preference swap leader board with the Hinch group in second place. However, Khan is also likely to pick up a swag of Labor and Liberal preferences ahead of the Reason party.

Khan has a high recognition factor because of the controversial “skyrail” issue in the area. The question will be: does Khan have enough pull to put him ahead of the Hinch group candidate in the tight final elimination rounds?

Southern Metro

The discipline shown between the micro-parties in this division is exemplary from the point of view of preference swaps. The beneficiary is likely to be Clifford Hayes of Sustainable Australia, if he can stay ahead of the Hinch group candidate. Hinch’s Justice Party came fourth in the top 10 allocations in this division, but the factor in its favour is name recognition.

Eastern Victoria

The top four recipients of preference swap deals in this division are Transport Matters, the Aussie Battlers’ Party, Sustainable Australia and the Hinch group. The incumbent micro-party member is Jeff Bourman of the Shooters’ party. He won in 2014 with preferences that boosted him to a quota from only 0.15% of first preferences.

This time, local recognition factors may assist the Battlers’ candidate Vern Hughes, but incumbency favours Bourman. The Hinch group is an outside chance in this division, sitting fourth on the preferences leader board, which is ahead of the Shooters.

The ABC’s Antony Green says the micro-parties are “gaming the system” by participating in locked-down preference deals. However, while it is distasteful to some, it is not illegal and in this election cycle Glenn Druery seems to have done his job well.

This is an edited version of a piece which first appears on michaelwest.com.au. Read the full article here.

Correction November 23: This piece originally stated that the Animal Justice Party had preferenced the Justice Party ahead of everyone else in the Northern Metropolitan region. This is incorrect; the party is preferencing Health Australia, Fiona Patten’s Reason Party, Voluntary Euthanasia, and Victorian Socialists before Hinch. 

Peter Fray

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