Victoria 2018 – the preference cabal is back


The group voting tickets were released on Sunday, showing how each party will direct its preferences for votes cast above-the-line in each region for the Victorian Legislative Council.

For those still catching up, this is basically the same system used for the Senate up to 2013 (although it is easier to cast a formal below-the-line vote if you wish to opt out). The upper house consists of forty members, with five elected for each of the eight regions.

There are eighteen parties running in every region, with only a handful of candidates standing outside of these groups.

Of these eighteen parties, it appears that fourteen are participating in some way in a preference arrangement to deny close races to the major parties or the Greens. There isn’t perfect discipline amongst these fourteen parties, but in each region there is at least one party which is getting very favourable preferences from pretty much every other party in the group, which will give them a good chance to win if they can stay in the race long enough to start accumulating preferences. In this post I’ll run through which parties appear to be the preferred winners in each region.

The preference cabal follows an approach where particular parties are prioritised in a particular region, in exchange for preferences elsewhere. This is why we’ve seen these parties run in every region: it gives them something to swap.

Nick Casmirri has helpfully done some research today identifying which parties appear to be best-placed to benefit from these preferences in each region:

  • East Metro – Rod Barton of the Transport Matters Party
  • East Vic – Vern Hughes of the Aussie Battler Party
  • North Metro – Multiple strong minors, but Carmel Dagiandis of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
  • North Vic – Tim Quilty of the Liberal Democrats
  • South East Metro – Ali Khan of the Transport Matters Party
  • South Metro – Clifford Hayes of Sustainable Australia
  • West Metro – Stuart O’Nell of the Aussie Battler Party
  • West Vic – Stuart Grimley of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party

Of course, this doesn’t mean these eight people will get elected. They will need to reach a certain threshold where they can start benefiting from preferences, but this can be quite low. Antony Green found that his upper house calculator could elect Transport Matters in East Metro off 0.31%.

If these candidates don’t perform well enough to get ahead of candidates who are preferencing them, it’s still quite possible others will do well and win seats off tiny votes.

While most of the micro-parties are working as a cabal, the major parties are not doing so.

Labor is preferencing the Greens quite highly, but in every region they are preferencing the candidate listed above ahead of the Greens, which means if they end up in a head-to-head race with the Greens at the end of the count, Labor’s preferences would help elect the little-known micro-party candidate.

It is quite likely this will happen in at least one region: the Greens are defending five upper house seats and are unlikely to win quotas in most of these regions. The Greens have retaliated by putting those same candidates ahead of Labor in five regions, but that won’t likely have an impact since Greens preferences are unlikely to be distributed: they’ll either win the last seat or be one of the last to be knocked out.

We don’t know exactly how these preference flows will play out, but it seems likely we will have multiple people with practically no profile elected on small votes, with preferences flowing in directions voters don’t understand. This is a perfect example of why it’s so crucial that the Senate voting system was changed when it was in 2016. With a crossbench of micro-party MLCs it will be difficult to get this system changed in the next term: opportunities for this kind of reform are rare.

Luckily the Victorian voting system does make it easier to vote below-the-line than the pre-2016 Senate system: you only need to number 1-5 to make your vote count. So it might be worth considering numbering your own preferences this time?

If you want to dive into the group voting tickets yourself, I recommend the more user-friendly versions published by Antony Green. And if you find any interesting preference decisions, please post them in the comments!

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  1. In Victoria’s Legislative Council if you voter below the line, which I did yesterday (12 Nov 18), you must number at least 5 candidates (the number of seats available per region) or you can vote for more or you can vote for all if you wish to, using consecutive numbers.

    It is a pity we dont have this system for the Senate for federal elections as no one is interested in 2nd and 3rd choices really in preference voting.

  2. Adrian Your assertion that “no one is interested in 2nd or 3 rd preferences. I for one have never cast a vote without being interested in where my preference goes. Even within neo-communist and neo-fascist groups some individuals are worse than others. It is just laziness not numbering 1 to 60. Compulsory Preferential voting is best system in existence. It is only brought into disrepute by those parties such as ALA which preference Victorian Socialists over Liberals.

  3. It’s not “laziness”, it’s just few care. They want to be in and out of that booth like a flash. The Greens claim there is a desire for “grassroots democracy”. Um, no, that’s what people elect politicians for.

  4. Both Adrian and Andrew are wrong. It’s not possible to have real preferences between 60 different options, and not reasonable to expect it, but obviously people care about their first few preferences.

    I don’t understand you saying “It is a pity we dont have this system for the Senate for federal elections” when you only have to number 6 boxes below the line for the Senate.

  5. Oops, my mistake I did not realise the Senate below the line voting is similar to the Legislative Council method below the line.

  6. I’d say it’s reasonable to expect people to be able to rank about 10 options. Beyond that is a bit much.

    What would also be interesting, if we had a more Condorcet-y system, would be to allow equal rankings at any stage on the ballot and also to allow skipping numbers – with such a system the integer sequence is very much a means to an end, what we care about is a weak ordering.

    Under that circumstance I think a lot of people would start going by tiers: they’d have a favourite at #1, several others at #2, the ones they don’t really care about either way at #3, their disliked major at #4, and then the rest at #5 or left off entirely.

  7. I love how the Greens see no irony in whining that the other parties are trying to “steal” their seats. Just like Adam Carr and other Labor Right figures claim that the Greens are “stealing” votes and seats that rightfully belong to Labor.

  8. This is a perfect example of why the federal Senate reforms – which all three major parties had agreed on until Labor decided to score cheap political points once they knew it was going to pass anyway – were so crucial. The situation of micro parties being elected on endless preferences flows is just ridiculous. Someone may fully support a micro/independent and is perfectly justified in voting for them, but when they don’t get elected and their preferences flow on to some obscure little party that the voter likely has never even heard of it just makes a mockery of the system. Preferences exist so that a voter may decide who their vote flows to should their first choice fall short, not so micro parties can game the system and get elected with tiny first preference votes and preferences from other parties who many times are completely ad odds with the way the voter intended on voting.

    Aside from that, Labor should be ashamed of themselves for preferencing far right parties like the Shooters and Fishers ahead of the Greens. They don’t seem to care that these whackos want to turn us into America and import their catastrophic gun culture here. All they care about is holding their seats and not about the lives of everyday Australians.

  9. With the benefit Antony Green’s calculator Aussie Battler does still have a path to a quota in East Vic and West Metro but in my opinion it’s unlikely. Shooters still favored in East Vic and West Metro, but in West Metro maybe LDP or Hinch could prevail. Everyone underestimated Battler which gave them a chance to do a ‘Ricky Muir.

  10. The Group Ticket voting is truly horrible. Based on my predictions of primary vote I have the following members;
    (Primary Vote of Minor Party is in brackets)

    East Metro – 2 Lib, 2 ALP, 1 Transport Matters (0.7%)
    East Vic – 1 Lib, 1 Nat, 2 ALP, 1 Liberal Democrats (3.6%)
    North Metro – 2 ALP, 1 LIB, 1 GRN, 1 Reason (5.4%)
    North Vic – 1 Lib, 1 Nat, 1 ALP, 1 Hudson (5%), 1 Liberal Democrats (2.2%)
    South East Metro – 2 ALP, 2 LIB, 1 Transport Matters (1.5%)
    South Metro – 2 Lib, 1 ALP, 1 GRN, 1 Sustainable Australia (1.3%)
    West Metro – 2 ALP, 1 Lib, 1 GRN, 1 Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (1.2%)
    West Vic – 2 LIib, 2 ALP, 1 Justice (3.4%)

    That gives a total of;
    14 – Labor
    14 – Coalition (12 Liberal, 2 National)
    3 – Greens
    2 – Liberal Democrats
    2 – Transport Matters
    1 – Fiona Patten’s Reason
    1 – Hudson 4 Northern Victoria
    1 – Sustainable Australia
    1 – Shooters, Fishers and Farmers
    1 – Derryn Hinch’s Justice

    The system must be changed!

  11. There’s no ‘Reason’ for Fiona to attract 5.4% now since she carelessly discarded her ‘Sex’ appeal.

  12. If Fiona doesn’t get up it will be Hinch Justice Party with even fewer primary votes.

    Victorian Socialists are going to start in 5th place but then get obliterated on preferences.

  13. Sorry Angela…”the system” is working exactly as intended. One you elect to go to compulsory voting and the major parties fail to address key voter issues ……then this is the result you get as …..nature abhors a vacuum.

    If you then go further so to restrict voter choice to “system or elite” candidates then it questionable whether you actually have a democracy. In short it adds credibility to those who attack “democracy” as being a sham.

    Far better to have democratic safety valves….. with either voluntary voting with Preferential voting, or compulsory voting with OPV, and following the same sex plebiscite I think we can trust the Australian people to make it work.

    I think that the assumption that Australians wouldn’t vote is precisely that an assumption….very little evidence to support it. The system must work for voters and not politicians, because what your seeing is voter alienation, not a failing system.

  14. The particular system of the group voting ticket is anti-democratic and should be changed so that voters get to allocate their preference if voting for parties and their tickets above the line – a reform which means that voters can decide which parties and in which order they will give their preference to beyond their first preference – the changes to the Senate system handed back that power to the voters and got it out of the hands of party bureaucrats


    We have a democratic safety value for those who do not wish to express a preference, deliberate informal voting.

    When there is voluntary voting, it is generally the least elite/system people who do not show up. Compulsory voting also encourages people to pay attention to politics. These mean compulsory voting actually brings the system and ordinary people

    The Victorian Legislative Council does have optional preferential voting bellow the line.

    Above the line voting should be changed, like in the Senate, to give voters above the line choice as to where their preferences go. Having above the line preferences controlled by candidates/parties is very elitist and anti-democratic. The decline in preferences reaching minor parties in the new Senate system is because voters are not sending their preferences to parties they don`t know about or oppose, that is democracy at work.

  16. Will be an interesting election, would say these are the seats that are likely to change hands. I’ve got a feeling it will be a hung parliament

    – Brunswick: this should become Greens quite easily
    – Albert Park: this will eventually become a liberal seat due to the wealth of the area
    – Carrum: anti skyrail brigade are pretty mental and do nothing Donna the fraud has a following
    – Pascoe Vale: fed up labor supporters who want action in their local community


    – Bass: labor have pumped money here and lots of new voters especially in Pakenham
    – Ripon: should become labor, member very active and respected in the community
    – Morwell: anyone can win it here
    – Prahran: greens member just holds it, both labor and liberal can snare this
    – South Barwon: plenty of money pumped into this electorate, Katos is well liked though

  17. In the old days the ticket votes would make sense and flow precisely and was considered the best in the world for years. The making up off and the multi registering of parties for the purpose of harvesting preferences was what killed it. The Greens did in first than later others picked up on it like the LDP which had a host of phony parties as did the greens. A simple check of membership or registered officers etc would have fixed the problem. The old Senate system was perfect (if used as it was intended).
    Left learning Parties.. Social Conservative Parties Right Wing Parties
    IE IE (consdiered centre) Liberal
    ALP DLP National/Country
    Greens Family First One Nation
    Socialists KAP
    Communists etc Aus Christians Etc
    would block together Would block together
    ALP would provide LNP would provide overflow
    Overflow if short if Short would accept or pass overflow

    The system worked then and no one had problems with it. If there was a swing to the ring the libs would gain or a conservative minor. If the swing was to the left then the ALP or the greens or like would benefit.
    Simple but accurate. Todays Senate option and a total debacle.

  18. Tony –

    While I’m perfectly satisfied that the LDP had a number of front parties (having David Leyonhjelm as their Registered Officer was a bit of a giveaway), I wasn’t aware of any Greens front parties. Could you give an example?
    Certainly there are several lefty micros who tend to preference the Greens, but the left is well known for splitting hairs anyway.

  19. Possible Green front parties were;

    21st century
    Bullet train
    Women’s Party
    23 Million

    Then there are most of the various Socialist parties whilst not being actual ‘front’ parties nearly always preference the Greens directly

  20. Bullet train definitely was not a Greens party. They ran in non-GVT elections and ended up being party of the Druery alliance.

    Socialist parties preferencing the Greens is on purely ideological agreement. That’s not at all equivalent than Leyonhjelm starting a party called “Outdoor Recreation” to funnel preferences to the LDP etc.

  21. Sorry Tony but tHe truth is that The Greens did not have Front Parties they were in reality a Front themselves for homeless Communists, Trotskyites and Anarchists hiding behind an environmental platform.

  22. Tom: “Compulsory voting also encourages people to pay attention to politics. ”

    But, they don’t, and don’t want to. This is the same Greens bullplop that claims their sacred proletariat wants “grassroots democracy” – um, no, that’s what they elect politicians for.

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