Minor political parties that have used complex preference deals to win Senate seats are threatening to target the Greens in inner-city seats if the party cuts a deal with the government to change how senators are elected.
With a federal election due by spring, the Turnbull government has started to move on implementing changes to the Electoral Act to stop micro-parties gaming the system.
Victorian state MP Fiona Patten, who represents the Sex Party, which has tried on several occasions to enter the Senate, accused the Greens and Senator Xenophon of hypocrisy. She noted that they got their original footholds in state parliaments with small primary votes through the preferences of other candidates. Now they were established in the Senate.
“Now they have found this road to Damascus, they want to close the drawbridge for everyone else,” she said.
Ms Patten received almost 7 per cent of the primary vote in the byelection for the state seat of Melbourne and said if the Greens cut a deal with the government, her party would seriously consider preferencing away from the Greens in such seats as the federal electorate of Melbourne, held by Greens MP Adam Bandt, and in other inner city seats in Sydney and elsewhere which the Greens covet.
Parliament ends on March 17 for seven weeks and does return until the May budget. The government believes it must have the changes legislated before March 17. This would leave open the option of an early election.
Even if it waited until spring, which is Mr Turnbull’s preference, the Australian Electoral Commission would need several months to change its vote counting systems and run a public education campaign.