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Vic Libs smart anti-Greens preference strategy

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Labor will probably win the Victorian election, but they could have won by more if the Liberals had preferenced the Greens.

Most political commentators were struggling to understand why the Liberals have decided against preferencing the Greens.

The mainstream argument runs that by directing preferences to the Greens in seats like Melbourne, the Liberals would have created a problem for Labor on its left flank, forcing it to run two campaigns. They would also have cost Labor a number of seats (some seemed to think up to four) which could have gone to the Greens, and possibly others in blue collar conservative areas as they adopted more left-wing policies to counter the Greens, thus losing voters in the centre.


This sort of "fronts" analysis might work well in analysing military battles, but it doesn't really cut it in politics.

I'll admit to initially being puzzled about the decision myself as I bought the fronts argument.

I also had another reason for thinking that it would be smart politics.

While the Liberals can't win the Labor seats where the Greens are competitive, they can determine who can. This gives them a long-term strategic advantage.

Normally these seats are reserved for Labor high-flyers and talent. By handing them to the Greens the Liberals deny the Labor Party opportunities to inject strong talent into the parliament.

Then if the Liberals switch preferences back to Labor the election after next, they also deny the Greens the opportunity to build a strong presence in the lower house.


So directing preferences to the Greens could indeed change the nature of the Greens/Labor relationship making it more difficult for Labor to hold onto seats on its left and its right.

So why did the Liberals forego these advantages?

Some commentators have decided that the Liberals are incompetent while Barrie Cassidy in this piece puts it down to an ideological position, and Ted Baillieu's inherent honesty.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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