THE Liberals will direct preferences to Labor ahead of the Greens at the state election, virtually destroying the minor party’s chances of winning seats in the lower house and seizing the balance of power in Victoria.
The shock move means Labor is almost guaranteed to retain a suite of inner-Melbourne seats it feared would fall to the Greens, and reduces to almost zero the prospect of the election producing a hung parliament.
The de facto Coalition-Labor alliance to shut out the Greens will come as a devastating blow to the minor party, which had hoped to win up to four lower house seats and become the kingmakers of Victorian politics.
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Liberal heavyweights including Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu, party president David Kemp and state director Tony Nutt last night resolved to ”put the Greens last” in all 88 lower house seats.
The Liberals were angry to discover the Greens had been negotiating a substantial preference deal with Labor, under which the minor party has agreed to buttress the government’s vote in 13 of the 15 most-marginal seats in the lower house and Labor will preference the Greens ahead of the Coalition in all upper house seats.
The Liberals say their decision is in the best interests of stable government for Victoria, because the state will be spared the sort of instability that followed the August federal election.
The preferences bombshell came just hours after Mr Baillieu unveiled a $1.4 billion blueprint to fix Melbourne’s trouble-plagued public transport system as the centrepiece of his official campaign launch.
The money will be spent on 40 new trains for Melbourne over eight years, with just seven to be delivered in the first term of a Baillieu government. The remaining 33 would be built should the Coalition be re-elected in 2014.
The Age can reveal that Mr Baillieu will today reinforce his transport pitch by pledging to begin developing an airport rail link if he wins on Saturday week.