Victorian Greens to preference Labor above Liberals as major parties make health pledges

Samantha Ratnam rules out deal with the Liberals, will direct preferences to ‘progressive’ candidates

The Victorian Greens have preferenced Labor above the Liberals in every seat at the upcoming state election and are now calling on the party to reciprocate.

With negotiations for preference deals are currently under way ahead of early voting beginning on Monday, the state Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, has ruled out working with the Liberals, even though it could benefit her party in some marginal seats.

“If Labor is serious about a progressive parliament, they must commit to preferencing the Greens and progressive independents ahead of the Liberals across the state,” Ratnam said.

“What the Liberals do is up to the Liberals. We have not met with them and there is no Greens-Liberal deal. We’ll direct preferences to Labor and progressive parties across the state, and we’re calling on Labor to do the same.”

The Greens are considering the Labor seats of Richmond and Albert Park, where long-serving MPs Richard Wynne and Martin Foley are retiring, and Northcote, which MP Kat Theophanous won from Lidia Thorpe in 2018 by just 800 votes.

The Australian has reported the Coalition was considering preferencing the Greens above Labor in inner-city seats in an effort to weaken the government’s chances of retaining a majority.

Ratnam, however, said she was confident the Greens would be able to win the seats without working with the Liberals.

“The Greens are working tirelessly to win seats in our own right. We are leading a grassroots, people-led campaign talking to thousands of voters about issues that matter to them and are getting a really positive response,” she said.

Ratnam said the Greens will preference “far-right and religious right parties”, such as the Democratic Labour party, Family First, Freedom party, One Nation and Clive Palmer’s United Australia party, last and has called on others to do the same.

She said the parties were “anathema to the vast majority of Victorians” but could be elected due to the state’s group voting system, which allows voters to choose just one party above the line on their ballot, after which their preferences are directed according to agreements between parties.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, said preference arrangements were a “matter for the party”.

He has already ruled out forming a minority government with the Greens in the event of a hung parliament after the 26 November election.

The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, refused to say whether the Liberals would preference the Greens over Labor as “we still don’t know who’s standing where”.

Campaigning in Frankston on Wednesday, Guy announced a $66m package to increase the use of medical robots in an effort to halve the state’s elective surgery waitlist.

Opposition health spokesperson, Georgie Crozier, said robotic surgery would result in shorter recovery times.

“It shortens the length of stay for some surgeries from five days to one, so that’s getting patients through the system a lot quicker, so therefore you can treat and care for more patients in the system,” Crozier said.

The health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, refuted the opposition’s suggestion that the technology could wipe the waitlist.

Andrews on Wednesday said that a re-elected Labor government would give nursing graduates a $5,000 sign-on bonus if they commit to working in the public hospital system for at least two years.

The scheme would be available to student nurses and midwives who graduate between 2022 and 2024.

“That is direct practical support, a way in which we can show our nursing midwifery workforce – the newest of them – that we value and respect their work,” he said.

The scheme would give eligible participants a $2,500 payment upon accepting a job and a further $2,500 after two years in the public system.

Labor also committed to boosting staff on duty in intensive care units, increasing the midwifery nurse-patient ratio on night shifts and trialling a neonatal support nurse on maternity wards

In August, the Andrews government pledged to make nursing degrees free for domestic students enrolling in courses next year and in 2024, as part of a $270m package to boost the state’s hospital workforce.


Benita Kolovos and Adeshola Ore

The GuardianTramp

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