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“We’re in uncharted waters”: Labor says NXT has cost itself three seats

Politics

The Nick Xenophon Team may have cost itself victory in three Liberal-held seats because it rejected a last-gasp preference deal dangled by the Labor Party, InDaily can reveal.

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The Xenophon party has long maintained it would run open preference tickets in all seats, eschewing deals with major parties in the belief it could damage the fledgling enterprise’s “independent” brand.

Labor’s state secretary Reggie Martin has told InDaily the ALP approached NXT with a specific deal that he says would have all but guaranteed it three Lower House seats.

Those seats appear likely to be Mayo, where incumbent Jamie Briggs has long been considered vulnerable, and two regional seats – Barker and Grey. While generally considered Liberal strongholds, both are vulnerable in the event of a genuine three-way contest.

“Nick Xenophon was offered a very generous preference deal from the Labor Party,” Martin confirmed in a written reply.

“But in my opinion he chose to protect his brand as an Independent rather than [make] a preference deal which would likely have won him three seats in the House of Representatives.”

He said Xenophon “was presented with an opportunity to preference Labor in a way that would have made it more likely for Labor’s South Australian jobs plan to be delivered, but he chose otherwise.”

It’s understood the offer was made around two weeks ago, after another reported approach over a deal in Hindmarsh – whose Labor candidate Steve Georganas has a good relationship with Xenophon – was similarly rebuffed.

“Yep, and we couldn’t do it,” Xenophon confirmed to InDaily.

He agreed his party’s positioning as a genuinely independent force had tied his hands in relation to preference deals.

“Doing deals would also mean there could be a backlash. We would have the Liberal Party going: ‘See, they’re in bed with one of the major political parties?’” he said.

“People haven’t thought that through, in terms of what that [doing deals] means.”

He did not concede the decision would cost the party victory in Mayo, Grey and Barker, arguing that the Labor vote in those seats “seems to be quite low”.

“It’s a difficult position,” he reflected on the party’s choice to go it alone on preferences.

“We’re in uncharted waters.”

Xenophon’s campaign director and Senate running mate Stirling Griff said via text message that “many parties, with the exception of the Libs, approached us” with proposed deals.

“We did not approach any party ourselves,” he wrote.

“Our response in all instances was that we will only be running an open ticket.”

Asked how he saw his chances on election eve, Briggs jokingly told InDaily: “I’ll leak you the polling figures – at 8 o’clock tomorrow night!”

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