Victoria’s opposition is referring the Labor government to the anti-corruption watchdog after the so-called “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery claimed the party has avoided reforming the upper house group voting system because he can help “keep the Greens at bay”.

The Angry Victorians party, headed by an army veteran and former police officer, on Thursday leaked videos to the Herald Sun of an online meeting they had with Druery on 1 November in the lead-up to the 26 November Victoria state election.

He offers to help the party get elected for a fee of $55,000 and refers to the success of a 2018 deal with the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union that ensured Labor preferenced minor parties above the Greens, who subsequently lost four seats.

Victoria’s Legislative Council is the only jurisdiction in Australia where group voting tickets are still allowed. Under the system, voters can choose just one party above the line on the ballot paper and their preferences are allocated by that party.

Voters can also vote below the line, and list their own preferences, but fewer than 9% did so at the 2018 election.

Druery worked with eight of the 11 crossbenchers who were elected that year. They included Transport Matters party’s Rod Barton, elected with a record low count of first preference votes: 2,508 out of 418,532 votes, or 0.6%.

Sustainable Australia’s Clifford Hayes won a seat in the southern metropolitan region with 1.32% of first-preference votes, ending the Greens MP Sue Pennicuik’s 12-year career. Pennicuik received about 13% of first-preference votes.

In the video, Druery claims the CFMEU wanted to organise for a candidate – Animal Justice party’s Andy Meddick – to win a seat in parliament and, in exchange, the union would ensure Labor preferenced minor parties ahead of the Greens in upper house group voting tickets, where four Greens MPs subsequently lost seats.

“Four of the suckers, so suffice to say that the Greens and Greens supporters don’t send me Christmas cards,” Druery says. “Now, the Labor party was very happy with that. They could govern.”

He says ensuring Labor benefits from the scheme is important to prevent them reforming group voting tickets.

“We’ve got to give the government, which will be the Andrews government, we’ve got to give them a crossbench they can work with,” Druery says in the video.

“The conversation is – ‘I want you to be able to govern and I will help you find a pathway forward. Of course, if you announce early on that you are going to get rid of the GVT [group voting ticket], the crossbench will become a very, very cross bench.

“You want to govern – I can help. You want to keep the GVT – that’s great. We can keep the Greens at bay. That’s how the conversations go.”

The opposition spokesperson for government scrutiny, Louise Staley, said she was referring the Australian Labor party, the premier, Daniel Andrews, the CFMEU and Druery to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.

Burson said he had provided the videos to Ibac.

“Democracy should not be for sale,” he said. “The people of Victoria deserve to know what has been going on for far too long. The major parties, and many minor ones, are putting themselves and their own political aspirations ahead of the people they are meant to represent.”

The Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, said Labor needed to immediately declare if the claims were true and whether it had been involved in the deal between Druery and the union.

“This must be the final nail in the coffin of our corrupt upper house voting system,” she said. “Victoria is the only state that continues to use the undemocratic group voting tickets, and this is why.”

Meddick said it was “a bit rich” that the Angry Victorians party had recorded their meeting with Druery.

In 2020 the Victorian parliament’s electoral matters committee considered upper house and group voting in its review of the 2018 election.

The Labor-chaired committee said proposed changes “involve serious and complex issues” that could “potentially have significant consequences for the makeup of Victoria’s parliament” and recommended a separate inquiry be held.

This week Guardian Australia revealed how Animal Justice party’s state election manager, Ben Schultz, undermined Druery’s preference arrangements for the election just minutes before group voting ticket registration closed.

Guardian Australia has contacted the Victorian Labor party, CFMEU and Druery for comment.



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