INDEPENDENT Jenny O’Connor believes she is the target of major party “dirty tricks” for a second time with speculation Labor will preference sitting member, Liberal Bill Tilley, ahead of her at this month’s state election.
The Liberal Party is not running in the inner-city seat of Richmond which pits Labor minister Richard Wynne up against Greens in a hotly contested battle where the sitting member would have benefited from Liberals preferences if they fielded a candidate.
Ms O’Connor, a former Greens member, said the prospect of Labor preferencing Mr Tilley ahead of her on the ballot paper would be an “extraordinary move”.
But preferences would only come into play in Benambra if Mr Tilley got less than 50 per cent of the primary vote which hasn’t happened since he was first elected in 2006.
“It is saying to the voters ‘we would rather see Bill Tilley re-elected than Jenny O’Connor or Jacqui Hawkins’,” she said.
“It’s why I’m not in a party any more and I’m a bit appalled.
“I think it’s a bit extraordinary that Labor would publicly say they would prefer to see a Liberal in the seat than an independent, particularly an independent who is progressive.
“Elections should be about who will best represent their community.
“But elections are often about dirty tricks, winning at any cost, and Labor would rather see their enemies in over an independent.
“I actually think it is going to help our chances.”
Mr Tilley holds Benambra with a margin of close to 10 per cent.
Ms O’Connor confirmed she would be running an open ticket in line with what Indi independent MP Cathy McGowan has done at the two previous federal elections against Liberal Sophie Mirabella.
A Liberal Party source said: “Jenny O’Connor is enough of a political professional to know that unless the Labor vote collapses in favour of an independent as we saw with Cathy McGowan in two federal elections, Labor preferences will never be distributed in Benambra.
“By her own logic in these comments she is suggesting Labor didn’t want Cathy McGowan elected.
“I’d be impressed if she was able to keep a straight face when making these claims.”
Labor Benambra candidate Mark Tait said final preferences would be revealed on Friday.
“We are talking to a few of the candidates, but we are definitely not talking to Bill,” Mr Tait said.
Ms O’Connor opened her campaign office in Wodonga on Thursday.
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