Controversial “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery faces new probity concerns after landing a taxpayer-funded role working for state upper house Liberal Democrats MP David Limbrick while running his own lucrative cash-for-votes business.
Mr Druery’s business brings micro parties together in a bloc to preference each other and leapfrog better-supported parties. The practice helped Mr Limbrick get elected at the 2018 poll with just 0.8 per cent of the primary vote.
Preference whisperer Glenn Druery.Credit:Nic Walker
An investigation by The Sunday Age revealed on the weekend that in a previous staff job for then senator Derryn Hinch, Mr Druery charged taxpayers almost $155,000 in travel and other expenses in a period of just over two years.
Those expenses were racked up at the same time as he was running his cash-for-votes business.
Glenn Druery’s yacht Aphelion.
The details of some of his travel raised concerns about the misuse of public money and conflicts of interests between his business and job. Mr Druery did not respond to detailed questions about his practices.
Now The Age has confirmed that Mr Druery, who lives on a 17-metre yacht at Clontarf Marina in Sydney, has landed a similar role working for the Liberal Democrats as a parliamentary adviser.
Mr Limbrick said Mr Druery had been working with him as a parliamentary adviser for a few months, but he said he could not remember when he joined the team. He confirmed Mr Druery lived in Sydney and said many staff work remotely.
“I’ve got nothing to say about it really, what happens between me and my staff is just that,” Mr Limbrick said.
In 2018 Mr Druery helped a record number of parties win seats in the Victorian upper house and in a later media interview claimed he helped nine win.
Reason Party leader Fiona Patten said Mr Limbrick’s hiring of Mr Druery “doesn’t pass the pub test”.
David Limbrick in Parliament last year.Credit:AAP
“We know Mr Druery is running a business that makes its profit from preference dealing. So it does seem strange for him to be employed directly by one crossbencher,” she said on Tuesday.
“I am not sure that the people of Victoria would be pleased to hear that a senior parliamentary adviser to a Victorian upper house MP is working from a yacht on Sydney Harbour.”
The Druery deals rely on group tickets and the fact that most electors vote above the line for the upper house, resulting in preferences being allocated according to deals struck by party bosses.
Federal and state governments have legislated to curb group voting. Victoria and Western Australia are the only jurisdictions left in Australia where the use of group voting tickets allows Mr Druery’s strategy to affect the outcome of elections. He is currently working with minor parties in the WA state election.
Ms Patten has fallen out with Mr Druery, but has said that before the 2018 election he asked her team for a $5000 upfront fee to join his group of minor parties and a success fee of $50,000 for each candidate elected.
In Victoria Mr Druery is already working with minor and micro parties ahead of the 2022 state election. Rod Barton MP from taxi industry-linked Transport Matters said he expected his party would again pay to be part of what Mr Druery likes to call his “family” of micro parties.
In a recent submission to the Victorian government, prominent Tasmanian election expert Kevin Bonham said the Victorian upper housing voting system was “farcically broken” and resulted in preference flows that did not represent voters’ intentions.
Many in Victorian politics anticipated reform after Mr Druery’s influence on the 2018 poll. A Labor-chaired electoral matters committee considered the upper house and group voting in its review of the 2018 election but found the issues so “serious and complex” they needed a separate inquiry.
Ms Patten has pushed for her own version of reform to rein in Mr Druery by tabling a bill that would outlaw profiteering from elections. The bill has not yet been voted on.
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