Seventeen days on, with yesterday’s resolution of counting for the Legislative Council, the real winner of the Victorian election can now be confirmed.
His name is Glenn Druery, staffer to Senator Derryn Hinch and preference manipulator extraordinaire.
Druery’s achievements on this occasion put all his previous efforts into the shade, with micro-parties — taken to mean everyone other than Labor, Liberal, Nationals and Greens — accounting for fully a quarter of the members in the 40-seat chamber.
Not all of them are formally part of the Druery preference network — certainly not Fiona Patten, of what was once the Sex Party and is now the Reason Party, who lodged a police complaint about Druery’s activities during the campaign.
However, it would seem that at least half of them are, and they can shortly expect to be invoiced for Druery’s reported $50,000 “success fee”.
Druery will also be in the good books with his boss, as three of the seats have gone to Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, which can now single-handedly deliver Labor the numbers it needs to pass contentious legislation.
In fairness to the micro-parties, they can claim the support of more than one in five upper house voters as a collective, with the Hinch party especially achieving its victories from fairly creditable shares of the vote (from 4.5% in Western Victoria region to 6.8% in Western Metropolitan).
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers also polled well enough to claim a genuine mandate from country voters, and, if anything, can feel peeved that they only have one seat to show for their efforts.
On the whole though, the result is yet another indictment of a system that puts a higher premium on opaque backroom deals than the conscious intentions of voters — and without question, the main victims of the injustice are the Greens.
It’s not currently fashionable to lend a sympathetic ear to the Greens’ excuse-making for their poor performance, which has seen their upper house representation slashed from five seats to one, as some of it was undoubtedly down to the internal dramas that crippled their campaign.
Nonetheless, the Greens outpolled every micro-party, in most cases by substantial margins, in seven of the eight regions (the exception being Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ highly creditable 7.9% in Northern Victoria, which nonetheless failed to win them a seat there).
The most egregious case was the defeat of Sue Pennicuik in Southern Metropolitan region, whose 13.5% vote share compared with 1.3% for the winning candidate of the anti-immigration Sustainable Australia party.
In terms of votes received, the Greens’ performance overall wasn’t nearly as bad as advertised; their vote share in the inner-city seats grew for the fifth election in a row, helping deliver three seats in the lower house, their best result yet at a general election.
However, the devastating upper house result raises questions as to whether a focus on increasing its lower house footprint is ultimately in the party’s own best interests.
While preference harvesting was the main culprit, a drop in support in suburban Melbourne also played its part, and could well be seen as a consequence of prioritising inner-city seats and the youthful demographic that dominates them.
For all the prestige attached to the lower house, winning seats there only delivers real influence in the unusual circumstance of a hung parliament — something Labor managed to avoid at this election in rather spectacular style.
It’s in the upper house that legislation will stand or fall over the next four years, and here the Greens now carry a third as much influence as Derryn Hinch’s party, and — as David Leyonhjelm was quick to gloat about yesterday — half as much as the Liberal Democrats.
As for Labor, it emerges with a multiplicity of potential pathways in securing the three extra votes it needs in addition to its own representation of 18 seats, including a left-of-centre bloc consisting of the Greens, Fiona Patten and Animal Justice — and perhaps also with a sense that the system isn’t quite as badly in need of reform as it may seem to the rest of us.