Senator Brian Burston
Senator Brian Burston

I was hardly surprised in the Western Australian election to cross paths with preference whisperer Glenn Druery, on the hustings as always at election time with his business plan for getting representatives elected to parliament. Mr Druery claims to have directly or indirectly orchestrated the election of about 15 MPs since 1999. In the 44th Australian parliament, for example, Mr Druery says that seven of the eight crossbench senators, excluding the Greens, were elected as a consequence of his preference deals. Only Senator Xenophon on the crossbench escaped the Druery magic of 2013.

Following the Western Australian election, however, what did surprise me were reports on the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald and on the inside page of The Australian that Mr Druery had campaigned against One Nation for two decades. Mr Druery was quoted as saying:

One Nation failed in everything they tried to do …

If that were not provocative enough, Mr Druery tweeted that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation was ‘virtually irrelevant’, following the Western Australian election. In the real world, One Nation secured 8.4 per cent of the vote in those lower house seats it contested and 8.1 per cent of the vote in the upper house. These figures are entirely consistent with the polls and will result in One Nation securing two and perhaps three upper house seats. Before the election, Mr Druery boasted that he could get six or seven One Nation candidates elected using the preferences he had organised from other minor parties. His business plan is the conjurer’s trick of setting up one deal to distract attention from the real deal happening elsewhere. You need to follow the magician’s hands if you do business with the Preference Whisperer.

I have known Mr Druery since the 1999 ‘tablecloth’ election in New South Wales, and his bullying of minor parties is legendary. Threats, intimidation and deception are the currencies of Mr Druery’s preference dealings, in my experience. Just last year, in the lead-up to the 2016 federal election, Mr Druery rang the One Nation office in Brisbane and said he ‘would tear out Pauline Hanson’s throat’ if she failed to comply with his instructions on preference deals. One Nation recorded Mr Druery’s call. At the 2013 election, Mr Druery left a threatening message on Dr Patricia Petersen’s telephone-answering machine, causing her to apply for an apprehended violence order against him. Dr Petersen informed me that she spent $28,000 on the election and lost all prospects of getting elected when Mr Druery dudded her Australian Independents party on a preference deal.

This is the same Mr Druery who tells The Australian that for two decades he has campaigned against One Nation. What Mr Druery really means is that 18 years ago, in 1999, when he manipulated the voting system in New South Wales by setting up no fewer than 15 front parties, he would not negotiate with One Nation because we were expected to receive a large primary vote. In fact, the third candidate elected to the legislative council in 1999 was a One Nation candidate. Ever since then, Mr Druery has been trying to weave his magic with One Nation and bully us into appearing on stage with the other victims of his preferencing charade. He spent years trying to ingratiate himself with One Nation with one hand while he slapped us down with the other. The same thing happened in the recent Western Australia election. One minute Mr Druery wanted to organise a preference deal with One Nation, and the next he would denigrate us, saying, ‘One Nation is not to be trusted on preferences.’

Mr Druery is duplicitous in his preference deals, and his business plan is seriously flawed. Back in 1999, Mr Druery’s business plan included setting up front parties with misleading names to deceive electors to vote for parties that appeared to represent their political convictions but in fact stood for something quite different. Election analyst Antony Green identified Mr Druery as the person responsible for setting up the Gay and Lesbian Party, which was formed by heterosexual activists campaigning for four-wheel-drive access to national parks. Mr Green also observed that Mr Druery and his friends set up the Marine Environment Conservation Party, another four-wheel-drive group more interested in bush-bashing than conserving marine life. In that election, the Preference Whisperer famously shot himself in the foot when one of his front parties, Marijuana Smokers Rights, received more votes than expected, knocking out Mr Druery and electing his mate Malcolm Jones, of the Outdoor Recreation Party, to the Legislative Council. What a disaster that turned out to be.

Malcolm Jones as a member of the Legislative Council continued doing what he and Mr Druery had done in the 1999 election—namely, working as conjurers for front parties. Unwisely, Mr Jones used the parliament’s resources to sign up people to various front parties, identified by the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption as including the Reconciliation Party, the Environment Party, the Four Wheel Drive Party, the Workers Party, the Anglers Party, the Stop the Greenies Party, the Marijuana Freedom Party, the Country Party, the Free Education Party, the Gun Owners Party and the Horse Riders Party. The writing was on the wall for Mr Jones after he was found by the ICAC to have acted corruptly, and he resigned from the Legislative Council rather than suffer the shame of being voted out of the chamber.

Mr Druery modified his business plan and stopped setting up front parties, but he continued to ply his preference magician’s trade by manipulating the group voting ticket to deceive voters and enhance the prospects for election of his many and varied clients from all sides of politics. His actions might not have been illegal or even corrupt, but they were morally and politically bankrupt.

At various times, Mr Druery stood as the candidate for the Liberals for Forests Party and the Liberal Democrats Party, but so far his business plan has failed to work when he is the candidate—a good outcome in my opinion, since Mr Druery’s business plan is not just ‘magical’; it amounts to a pyramid scheme that defrauds investors. Preference-harvesting Druery-style is a rort. He famously organised hundreds of thousands of preferences from minor parties that resulted in Ricky Muir from Victoria getting elected to the Senate from a record-low base of 17,122 primary votes. Nobody would dispute that Mr Muir turned out to be a good senator, but the word ‘rort’ is an appropriate description of his election.

Mr Druery said his clients represent seven per cent of the upper house vote in the Western Australian election. I have no idea who his clients were or how much they paid him, but the chances of them all getting a seat were Buckley’s and none. The so-called Druery grouping is a classic pyramid scheme developed by Mr Druery for the group voting ticket still used in some of the country’s upper-house chambers. I did hear a report on ABC Radio that he was offering his political consulting services for $50,000 per candidate elected on a no win, no fee basis. Perhaps the business plan has changed. Mr Druery denied the ABC report, but he had made a similar offer to One Nation in return for the six or seven seats he said he could organise in Western Australia. Goodness knows how he was going to get seats for all his customers in the west as well as for One Nation. I am reminded of the bloke who always picks the winner of the Melbourne Cup by having a few bob on every horse in the race.

The Australian newspaper report I mentioned earlier says Mr Druery works in a minor party senator’s office and at the same time advises candidates of other minor parties how to get elected to parliament. I might be old-fashioned, but it looks like a conflict of interest to me and suspiciously like the same conduct that the ICAC labelled as corrupt in the case of Malcolm Jones.

The newspaper report also says that Mr Druery travelled to Western Australia ‘on his own time and money’. I will not believe it until I see copies of his travel claims. Mr Druery is also accused of using his Senate name card to lobby for private business. Another issue is that Mr Druery’s bullying is not limited to his preference dealings; I am reliably informed that some of his work colleagues are on stress leave on account of his behaviour in the office.

Mr Druery will say that this has been an unfair attack on his character and his reputation and a misuse of parliamentary privilege. I reject that proposition on the basis that there is really nowhere to go with allegations of this kind in the absence of a federal independent commission against corruption or a federal parliamentary commissioner of standards. People need to be properly accountable for the way parliament’s resources and allowances are used, and Mr Druery is no exception.

Source annd document : Parliament of Australia Chamber Senate on 7/02/2017 Item MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE – Centrelink Speaker :Burston, Sen Brian