‘I am taking this personally’: Victorian crossbencher Fiona Patten bemused by federal Labor preference deal

The Victorian state crossbench MP Fiona Patten says she will re-evaluate her relationship with the Andrews government after federal Labor placed Derryn Hinch’s Justice party and the Liberal Democrats above her party on Senate how-to-vote cards.

Labor’s how-to-vote card for the Senate in Victoria instructs supporters to place the Greens second on their ballot paper, followed by Derryn Hinch’s Justice party, die liberale demokrate, the Animal Justice party and the Reason party, of which Patten is leader.

She described the move as “surprising”, given the Victorian Labor government has come to rely on her support, along with that of the Animal Justice party MP, Andy Meddick, and the Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, to pass legislation in the upper house.

“You can imagine how disappointed I was to see that the relationship that we had built through very tough times was not reflected in their preferences at a federal level in this state,” Patten told Guardian Australia.

“I am taking this personally. It does make me question the relationship that I thought we had.”

Patten, Meddick and Ratnam were instrumental in helping the Victorian government extend its state of emergency powers and later worked with the health minister to draft pandemic-specific legislation. The trio received death threats due to their support for the laws.

Patten said the Liberal Democrat David Limbrick, who vacated his seat in the Victorian upper house to run at the top of his party’s Senate ticket, “accused Daniel Andrews and the Labor government of being dictators”.

“They’re recommending that their voters vote for David Limbrick before they vote for Reason. In what world would that seem logical?” Patten said.

“They couldn’t work with him at a state level, but they reckon they’ll be able to work with him at a federal level. Is that what they’re trying to tell us?”

Reason has placed Labor third on its how-to-vote card for the Senate in New South Wales and fifth in Victoria, behind the Animal Justice party, the Greens and the Fusion party.

Limbrick said both Labor and the Liberals had placed the Liberal Democrats at four on how-to-vote cards, although he was surprised by the former’s decision to do so.

“Maybe they really want me out of state politics, Ek weet nie. Maybe they prefer their federal counterparts to deal with me than state government," hy het gesê, adding the Liberal Democrats were yet to publish their how-to-vote cards.

A spokesperson for Meddick said he was disappointed by Labor’s decision but noted there was a difference between state and federal branches.

"Natuurlik, we’d always like to be higher. Elections are a tough game and sometimes we don’t always come out on top of those negotiations, but our primary focus now moving forward is just getting as high a primary vote as we possibly can," sy het gese.

“Victorians can choose their own preferences and they don’t need to follow a how-to-vote card.”

In 2016, the Senate voting system was changed to remove the use of group voting tickets and to require voters to allocate six or more preferences above the line or 12 or more below the line on the ballot paper.

Victorian and federal Labor have been contacted for comment.

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