Lee takes on preference whisperer Glenn Druery and his agenda to maintain a voting system built on backroom deals and disempowered voters.
Senator RHIANNON: In the lead-up to the 1999 New South Wales state election, how many parties did you help?
Mr Druery: That was a long time ago. I do not recall how many people I advised, but there was a lot.
Senator RHIANNON: There were 81 parties. You helped register many of them. You actually expected to get elected, from comments you made at the time. Could you give more of an indication of-
Mr Druery: I do not recall those comments. What comments were they?
Senator RHIANNON: I will ask the question again. How many parties were you involved in setting up-20, 30, 40, most of them-
Mr Druery: I do not recall. Certainly, since then I have been involved in helping people form over 40 political parties. There are a few at the moment.
Senator RHIANNON: Those political parties are parties designed to play a role in the group-voting tickets. This is a question. I am not making assumptions here. I am just saying: is it a political party that has real members and a platform that is out there and is engaging with the public to win support or are they parties that have been set up to be part of a group-voting ticket to funnel votes?
Mr Druery: You would have to talk to the parties about that.
Senator RHIANNON: But you have said you helped set up 40 parties, so you could obviously give an indication about that, Mr Druery.
Mr Druery: I would be betraying private conversations. I can say that minor party operatives are a very eclectic bunch and political parties are established through all sorts of reasons. Some of them think they can win, some of them want to make statements in the political arena by simply running and getting access to the media and others want to run in lower house seats and use their preferences to influence their position. I cannot address your question specifically because I simply do not know the answer.
Senator RHIANNON: Can you address specifically: have you been paid to undertake this work? Is it true that you were paid by the Shooters and Fishers to undertake this work and assist and set up parties to funnel votes to benefit from group-voting tickets?
CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, I do not think that is relevant to the inquiry-
Senator RHIANNON: It is highly relevant, Chair, because Mr Druery has been one of the key people involved in using group-voting tickets, and at the centre of the legislation we have before us is the removal of group-voting tickets. How Mr Druery works is obviously very relevant. If Mr Druery could answer the question it would be helpful.
CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, I have obtained advice from the secretariat on this point and it is not appropriate to ask Mr Druery in relation to his personal financial matters. You can ask him about people he has represented and so on in the past.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I think it should be recorded that Senator Conroy was supporting me on this one.
Senator CONROY: I agree you should be able to ask questions.
Senator RHIANNON: We will move on. Is it true in your view that the more parties that are registered and part of a grouping of parties exchanging preferences via group-voting tickets the greater the chance that one of them will be elected?
Mr Druery: Mathematically, that theory would be correct-yes.
Senator RHIANNON: So that has been the basis of how you have worked in terms of running those forums and running the round robins that you organised-to inform people that they have a chance of getting elected? That is the basis of it?
Mr Druery: No, that is not the basis.
Senator RHIANNON: What is the basis, please?
Mr Druery: Minor parties should work together, in my opinion, before they deal with the major parties. My advice to minor parties is to, where they can, exchange preferences amongst themselves. Obviously, there are sometimes philosophical reasons why that cannot happen and some of those parties will preference major parties of varying colours before they go to other minor parties. I think you are referring to the Minor Party Alliance meetings that I have been running or hosting since 1999. Is that right?
Senator RHIANNON: That is right. If you can provide-
Mr Druery: These meetings are predominantly networking opportunities for minor parties.
Senator RHIANNON: Do you concede that it is a flawed electoral system if it provides an incentive for a person to register lots-
Senator CONROY: Only with preference to the Greens.
Senator RHIANNON: of parties because that provides electoral advantage?
Mr Druery: As I recall, it was this so-called flawed electoral system that put you there in the first place and-
Senator CONROY: Preference harvest.
Mr Druery: quite a few, as I recall, political parties were set up by Greens' sympathisers leading up to the 1990 election. Do you remember that, Senator?
Senator RHIANNON: No, absolutely not.
CHAIR: Mr Druery is not here to question the senator.
Senator RHIANNON: You are again being deceptive and not answering the question.
Mr Druery: I am not being deceptive.
Senator RHIANNON: If you have examples put them on the record.
CHAIR: Order! Senator Rhiannon-
Senator RHIANNON: In 1999, there was the Wilderness Party and the Animal Liberation Party that you created and you still will not put it on the record.
Mr Druery: What about the Euthanasia Referendum Party that Green supporters-
Senator RHIANNON: You have talked about ordinary members-
Mr Druery: What about the parties you are supporting?
CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, please address your question to Mr Druery. Mr Druery, your role is to answer the questions.
Senator CONROY: I think he is entitled to respond to the-
Senator RHIANNON: Mr Druery, you have stated in some of your opening remarks and in your answers to earlier questions your commitment to ordinary Australians being involved in the political process and that you are concerned changes will exclude ordinary Australians from the political system.
Mr Druery: Yes, most likely.
Senator RHIANNON: Do ordinary Australians not have a right to decide their preferences-
Mr Druery: Yes, they do-
Senator RHIANNON: rather than by backroom deals?
Mr Druery: and that is why I advocate 1 to 6 below the line.
Senator RHIANNON: Above the line, why do you not support a system where preferences will be required to be allocated-
Mr Druery: Do you mean the system that elected you? Is that what you mean?
Senator RHIANNON: I will just finish my question, please.
CHAIR: This will be your last question, Senator.
Senator RHIANNON: The proposal for above the line is to allocate preferences 1 to 6. Clearly, we all know that that would require people also to be preferencing minor parties. So here we have ordinary people deciding their preferences and they can be electing minor parties. If we have real parties engaging in a political process on their election platform, engaging with people rather than backroom deals, is that not the way to have ordinary people voting and determining their preferences and ordinary people elected?
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator.
Mr Druery: Senator, the reality of the situation is that you benefitted from a form of electoral subsidy when you were elected and now that you are in the room we pull up the drawbridge. It is unlikely that minor parties will make it through the system the way that you did and the way that Senator Xenophon did. If you adopt a 1 to 6 above the line, or 1 to whatever above the line, it will exclude minor parties.
Senator RHIANNON: Isn't that your business model?
CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon, your time has elapsed.