The Lismore-based leader of the Stop CSG Party has defended his fledgling party’s preferencing of far-right and fringe groups in the race for the vital last Senate seats which could hold the balance of power after the September election.
Gordon Fraser, who is also his party’s Senate candidate for NSW, says he’s been accused of, and denies, ‘stealing Greens votes’ by the preference deals which puts the likes of the anti-gay rights Family First Party and extreme-right Australia First Party ahead of the Greens, which have campaigned strongly against coal-seam gas (CSG).
The Stop CSG Party, as well as the recently-formed Wikileaks Party and even the HEMP Party, have come under fire recently over their preference deals favouring non-progressive causes and parties.
A recent newspaper claim said the micro-parties appear to be listening to a controversial strategist linked to the Shooters and Fishers Party.
Mr Fraser told Echonetdaily that in the fiercely contested race for the vital last few Senate spots which minor parties are expected to fill, ‘you can’t just preference your friends’ and that ‘sometimes you have to take votes away from your enemies’.
But soon after this story was written this morning, Mr Fraser suddenly announced his resignation from the party on his Facebook site, saying he was sick and tired of all the criticism he had received from the move.
He said he would officially retire ‘from giving a shit’ on the day after the election.
Earlier, he had told Echonetdaily that ‘preferencing is about numbers of votes, as long as no long-term commitments have been made or deals for special treatment expected then taking early votes from those you oppose is actually quite smart,’ he said.
‘Whilst it may look unsavoury, it nevertheless denies them passing their vote forwards to someone else who may actually support their cause.’
Mr Fraser said that with 110 parties and groups vying for the Senate seats, preferencing has been made all the more complicated, but his party’s strategy was to ‘ensure maximum survival’ during the long-winded distribution of preferences.
Like many of the micro-parties, the Stop CSG Party is hoping is to get across the line from the ‘cascading’ preference distribution, even if they only draw a very small percentage of primary votes.
But a high-profile anti-CSG activist Paul Joseph, also from Lismore, says it appears the Stop CSG Party ‘certainly want to stop the Greens’ by their preferencing.
Mr Joseph, a musician who has written an anti-CSG song for the movement, told friends on a Facebook site the party’s preference deal looked like it would ‘split the CSG movement, marginalise the issue and ensure a real boost to the industry when well meaning votes go to right-wing ratbags’.
And the Greens lead candidate for the Senate in NSW, Cate Faehrmann, says ‘there is a real danger that reckless fringe parties from the far right, along with Tony Abbott’s Liberals, could gain control of the Senate at this election’ by the way some micro-parties have preferenced.
Ms Faehrmann, who resigned her seat in the NSW Legislative Council recently to contest the Senate, said she’s in the fight for her life to secure the last Senate spot for NSW.
‘With parties like Wikileaks and the Sex Party preferencing the Shooters Party at this election there is every chance that we could see a Shooters Party senator elected,’ she said.
‘Given just how much the Shooters Party has held NSW to ransom with their extreme demands, it’s frightening to think what they would do if they ever held the balance of power at the federal level.’
The Stop CSG Party has preferenced the Wikileaks Party first and the Greens at No. 20.
Mr Fraser says that ‘if you only preference to or from likeminded parties early in the electoral race then you are effectively in competition for the same voter base at the same time in the counting process, and therefore both of you risk being road blocked from growing your early vote’.
He said that ‘preferences elect senators’ and that ‘in 2010, it took 71 counts of preferences for the final Senate seat to be filled by Lee Rhiannon of the Greens who at count 271 received 14 ballot papers from the defeated Shooters and Fisher Party.’
Ms Faehrmann said with the ‘plethora of micro-parties running in this election the outcome in the Senate is far from certain’ but ‘the sure way to stop Tony Abbott gaining control of the Senate with extreme right-wing parties like the Shooters Party and Pauline Hanson is to vote Green in the Senate’.
An article in the Sydney Morning Herald recently by Sean Nicholls said the micro-parties also appeared to be listening to Glenn Druery, ‘a controversial strategist who has earned a reputation as the ”preference whisperer” of Australian politics’.
Nicholls wrote that ‘Druery made his reputation in NSW when he registered a couple of dozen micro parties, essentially only created to attract small numbers of votes and direct preferences elsewhere, to contest the Legislative Council at the 1999 state (NSW) election.’
The report said Druery’s friend, Malcolm Jones, of the Outdoor Recreation Party snared a seat in the upper house in that election with only 0.2 per cent of the primary vote and that ‘once again accusations are flying about who Druery is actually trying to help’.
Nicholls wrote that micro parties that ‘have attended a ”preferences summit” and subsequent strategy meetings with Druery belong to both the left and right of politics. They include HEMP and the Australian Sex Party. Druery insists that he is not officially working for any of them’.
Nicholls says Druery ‘is close to the Shooters and Fishers Party, having worked with them to secure an upper house spot at the West Australian state election.
‘And he hosted discussions about the micro party preference strategy with the Australian Sex Party in the offices of the Shooters and Fishers at NSW Parliament House.
‘It has also been reported – but denied by Druery – that the ”preferences summit” was organised by the Shooters and Fishers.’
Crikey’s Canberra correspondent Bernard Keane wrote this week that the fury over the Wikileaks Party’s decision to preference right-wing fringe parties and the Nationals ahead of the Greens in Western Australia ‘reduces the chances of the Greens’ Scott Ludlam, who faces a challenge to hang onto his Senate spot, being re-elected’.
Keane says Ludlam has been Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s strongest supporter inside federal parliament, yet that preference decision ‘strengthens the chances of the Nationals ‘snaring the sixth senate spot ahead of the Greens’, a move which Keane described as ‘an extraordinary betrayal’.
Keane wrote that the Wikileaks Party’s WA volunteer co-ordinator Natalie Banks announced her resignation after the allocation was revealed.
Wikileaks claimed its preference deal in NSW was the result of an ‘administrative error’, which further infuriated supporters, who doubted the claim and had originally thought the party was left-leaning.
See the Echo’s full election coverage on our page Election 2013