Vote  guru cautions Abbott
Preferences whisperer: Glenn Druery. Picture: Supplied

The mastermind behind the minor parties' Senate success last year has warned any move by the Government to change the Upper House voting system will antagonise the crossbenchers Prime Minister Tony Abbott needs to get his agenda through Parliament.

So-called preferences whisperer Glenn Druery told The West Australian yesterday it would be "foolhardy" for the coalition to scrap group voting tickets despite criticism they lacked transparency.

Mr Druery also said there was strong enthusiasm among minor parties to stand in a potential re-run Senate election in WA.

Impetus for electoral reform emerged after the September 7 Federal election in which Right-leaning minor parties and independents won Upper House seats in every State and unexpectedly gained a slice of the balance of power - to take effect when the new Senate convenes in July.

Among those to win seats because of favourable preference deals were the Australian Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich in WA and the Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir in Victoria, despite them polling just 0.23 per cent and 0.51 per cent of the primary vote respectively.

The bungled Senate re-count in WA has also heightened calls for reform.

The Greens and South Australian independent Senator Nick Xenophon want to end group voting tickets, which allow candidates to dictate where their preferences flow and keep voters mostly in the dark about the beneficiary of those opaque deals.

A parliamentary inquiry is looking at Senator Xenophon's Bill to introduce optional preferential voting, which would instead allow voters to allocate a preference when they vote above the line.

But Mr Druery said making it harder for minor parties to win a seat would provoke a negative reaction from the public and crossbenchers Mr Abbott needed to court.

"The very people the Government is trying to get rid of is the very people that the Government will need for the next three years," he said. "It would be foolhardy. It doesn't make sense."

Instead Mr Druery, who has held talks with the Government, Opposition and the Greens over reforms, said he believed the coalition would make it harder for minor parties to register to stand in elections. He said this would cut the number of minor parties by two-thirds.

The Australian Electoral Commission has more than 50 parties on its register.

Mr Druery, who created the Minor Parties Alliance and advised Mr Dropulich on campaign strategy, said minor parties were excited about the prospect of the Court of Disputed Returns ordering a new poll in WA.

He said the number of minor parties to stand would "at least match and perhaps exceed" the 23 parties that ran against the Liberals, Nationals, Labor and Greens in WA last year.

The West Australian

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