Adelaide | While ‘preference whisperer’ Glenn Druery is providing free advice to a range of South Australia’s minor parties on how to win seats in the election, he’s on the payroll of just one.
Druery refused to say who that was, but InDaily has been told by three separate sources he’s on a retainer from the Shooters and Fishers party. InDaily has been unable to contact the Shooters candidate in SA this morning.
Preference horse-trading ends midday next Thursday. When the Electoral Commission releases the crucial upper-house group voting tickets later next week there’s a good chance some micro-parties, seemingly including the Shooters, will have done better than the others – and that’s thanks to Druery.
Druery’s an ultra-distance cyclist, and that’s where InDaily found him by phone this week – on his bike cycling in New South Wales.
His minor party alliance has already held two meetings in South Australia with one more to come before Thursday, he said. And the fact that he was getting paid to represent one of the minors wasn’t a conflict of interest.
“At the meetings I will always say that I have a client, and while I’m standing up here I have no client,” he said.
“Once I leave the floor I’m here in another capacity.
“So there’s no conflict of interest. And one thing I’ve got to be very careful is maintaining that balance. You’re only as good as your reputation in this game.”
It’s not commonly understood that Druery’s seat-winning trick – nicknamed ‘preference harvesting’ by ABC election analyst Antony Green – is actually in two parts.
The first part is well-enough known: Druery brings together micro-parties and shows them the benefits of preferencing each other before the major parties, no matter their ideological differences. That way, at least one or two of them are likely to get elected on preference flows – as the Australian Motoring Enthusiast’s did at the federal election.
The second, less-well-known part is this: Druery can be employed for a fee to negotiate preference flows at the very meetings he organises.
But Druery’s plans appear to have hit a small snag in South Australia, with his once-allies-now-enemies the Liberal Democrats organising a separate minor party alliance in direct competition.
The Fair Minor Party Alliance (FMPA), as it’s known, has been organised by the LDP’s state candidate Michael Noack. Druery was an LDP candidate in 2010 but has since split acrimoniously from the party.
Noack told InDaily his group – which he claims included representatives from five of the 11 minor parties planning to run – met for the first time last Thursday. He admitted the FMPA would be working on preference harvesting as well, but said the techniques existed a long time before Druery employed them to such dramatic effect.
The LDP were excluded from Druery’s minor party meetings – “because they are running front groups in the form of Smokers Rights and Hemp”, Druery says.
Noack says the problem is Druery.
“It all started because they’ve been having these meetings excluding the Lib Dems,” Noack said.
“Originally it was a bit more controlled by Glenn. Druery works for the Shooters and Fishers party … and he’s paid by the Shooters and Fishers and he’s been helping them.
“He’s certainly trying to help his clients.”
Noack didn’t expect the two competing alliances to disrupt everybody’s preference-harvesting plans.
“I don’t think they’ll withdraw (from the other alliance), I think most people want to be in both. There is a split because the Shooters and Fishers and most people aligned with the MPA won’t work with us.”
For his part, Druery is expecting to get one or two minor parties into Parliament’s upper house.
“I would expect the Liberals to win four. Labor three. Greens one. Xenophon, he’s a curious bag – the Xenophon camp are confident they’re going to win two.
“If they win two, obviously there’s only one place left. The key here is what happens with the majors, and Xenophon is a major now. It really depends on what happens with the majors. Certainly there’s room for one, possibly two.”