Former Greens leader Bob Brown with current leader Richard Di Natale. Photo: Pat Scala Bob Brown is arrested in Tasmania. Under controversial new laws which prevent protests at workplaces, the former Greens leader was charged with ‘failing to comply with a direction to leave a business access area’.
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Former Australian Greens leader Senator Bob Brown. Photo: Peter Mathew

Federal election: Full coverage

Former Greens leader Bob Brown is urging his party to ditch preference deals and run open tickets across the country at the July 2 election, in a move that would make it harder for Labor to win government.

The progressive party’s elder statesman says open tickets are more democratic and ALP candidates should “get out and work for votes” rather than relying on Greens preferences to get them elected in marginal seats.

“I think open tickets are the best because they do leave it up to the voters,” Mr Brown told Fairfax Media in an interview this week. “They minimise the party influence and maximise the voter’s choice.”

Preferencing is where a party uses how-to-vote cards to tell supporters in what order to number the candidates on the ballot paper. Under an open ticket, the party makes no such recommendations, leaving it entirely up to the voter.

Mr Brown’s comments come amid Labor fears the Greens are working on a controversial deal with the Liberal Party.

Under the rumoured plan, the Greens would run open tickets in key seats the Liberals hope to seize from Labor.

In exchange, the Liberals would preference the Greens ahead of Labor in the Victorian seats of Batman and Wills, giving them a good chance of winning. It could also help them retain Adam Bandt’s seat of Melbourne.

The potential deal is being driven by Victorian Liberal President Michael Kroger, who says the Greens are “not the nutters they used to be”. However, the proposal has angered a number of conservative Liberals.

Labor fears the Greens could do something similar in NSW in exchange for Liberal preferences in the seats of Sydney and Grayndler, putting senior Labor figures Tanya Plibersek and Anthony Albanese at serious risk. Mr Albanese says any such deal would dramatically boost the Coalition’s chances of re-election.

However, Greens strategists insist the party has no plans to do any formal deals with the Liberals. Sources also say there is no scenario in which the party would preference the Liberals ahead of Labor in any seat.

While Greens Leader Richard Di Natale and his parliamentary team have a say on preference deals through the party’s National Council, final decisions are typically left up to individual branches. That means Mr Brown’s comments could have some sway.

At the 2010 federal election, the Greens recommended preferences to Labor in 98 seats and ran open tickets in 44 seats. But party sources say there is a move towards more open tickets this time around.

Mr Brown calls preferences a “distortion of democracy” that only distract from his party’s policy ideas during the election campaign.

“The voter should put their preferences where they want them to go,” he said.

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