Australia's minor parties will be a major thorn in the sides of the Coalition and the Greens at the next election, as they plan a lower house assault in retaliation for senate voting changes.
The Huffington Post Australia can reveal a meeting of more than 40 minor and independent parties in Sydney over the weekend voted unanimously to cause havoc in marginal Coalition and Greens seats, running candidates in more than a dozen electorates across the country and preferencing toward the Labor Party.
The strategy will see parties such as the Liberal Democrats, the Sex Party, the Shooters and Fishers Party and the Christian Democrats -- parties that usually target the senate and rarely entertain a House of Representatives campaign -- run candidates in seats held by slim margins such as La Trobe or Hindmarsh, or in seats the Coalition or Greens hope to pick up, such as Grayndler.
The plan was flagged by Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm in February, but has now been formally agreed to.
The tactic was described by Minor Party Alliance convenor and political strategist Glenn Druery -- the so-called "preference whisperer," for his work in getting minor parties elected through preference deals -- as a "natural consequence" of the deal struck by the Coalition and Greens on senate voting changes, which would make it far more difficult for small parties to be elected.
"The government will be attacking democracy in this country, wiping out independents and minor parties in the senate. The consequences of that are the minor parties fighting back," he told HuffPost Australia.
Druery said the plan, which is aimed to "teach the government a lesson," will see progressive minor parties run candidates and preference toward the Labor Party in seats including:
- Melbourne -- held by Greens MP Adam Bandt;
- Barton -- held by the Liberals with a tiny margin, and to be contested by star Labor recruit Linda Burney;
- Grayndler -- held by Labor's Anthony Albanese, but targeted strongly by the Greens;
- Richmond -- held by Labor with a small margin
Druery also said conservative minor parties would target "at least 10 marginal Coalition seats," preferencing away from the Coalition in Petrie, La Trobe, Hindmarsh and Banks.
"Many of these seats are [a margin] of two percent or less... I’m not suggesting the actions of the minor parties will cost the Coalition government, but there will be an impact," Druery said.
"It's not a declaration of war. Minor parties cant go up against the government n a head-to-head battle, but it is likely to be a series of skirmishes."
"[The senate voting changes] are about self-interest. The government will probably, in every few elections, have total power in the senate too. We will be moving down the road of a two-party state."
Leyonhjelm told HuffPost Australia that his Liberal Democrats party was interested in running a candidate in the lower house.
"The idea would be that [minor parties] would run in those seats and preference Labor before the Coalition. That might mean that other parties get preferenced earlier than that, but what matters in the lower house is whether it is Labor ahead of Liberal or Liberal ahead of Labor," he said.
"It will increase the chances some Coalition member loses their seat."