EXCLUSIVE

Election a fluke? The real reason behind Ricky Muir's victory throws into disarray the "quirk of democarcy" view.

Election a fluke? The real reason behind Ricky Muir's victory throws into disarray the "quirk of democarcy" view. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The election of Ricky Muir is widely regarded as a fluke. A quirk of democracy.

But Fairfax Media has learned that Senator Muir's victory, based on a minuscule primary vote of 0.51 per cent, was a byproduct of a personal spat that had nothing to do with him.

"It was a simple business transaction. When someone doesn't pay, you don't keep working for them": Glenn Druery.

"It was a simple business transaction. When someone doesn't pay, you don't keep working for them": Glenn Druery. Photo: James Alcock

In the months before the election, Glenn Druery, the political operative known as the ''preference whisperer'' was being paid by Ashley Fenn, the Family First Senate candidate in Victoria, to engineer his preference deals with other micro parties.

The result of their fallout would alter the complexion of the balance of power in the Senate and prevented a Christian Right-dominated bloc from wielding as much power as the Palmer United Party currently does.

According to Mr Druery, a dispute over unpaid bills resulted in him walking away from the arrangement with Family First.

Mr Fenn confirmed on Monday that he had been paying Mr Druery but denied there was ever any problem with paying on time. ''Any invoice he gave us was paid,'' he said.

It is understood that after the relationship soured, Mr Druery orchestrated a number of crucial preference flows that propelled the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party past Family First for the final seat in Victoria. The manoeuvre also ended the political career of Liberal Helen Kroger.

Australian Electoral Commission records show that at key stages in the count, preferences from the Fishing and Lifestyle Party and the Shooters and Fishers Party went to Mr Muir, helping to keep him in the count and preventing those preferences flowing to Mr Fenn.

At the time Mr Druery was being paid by the Shooters in NSW and Fishing and Lifestyle in Western Australia. He filled out group voting tickets for both those parties, preferencing Mr Muir over Family First.

Mr Druery said: ''It was a simple business transaction. When someone doesn't pay, you don't keep working for them.''

Mr Fenn, who runs an affordable housing company, said Mr Druery was overstating his influence and that the Motoring Enthusiasts came ''up through the middle'' because no one had judged the party as a threat.

He said parties from the left and right were prepared to deal with Mr Muir's party as his party would never swap preferences with parties like the sex party and Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP).

Meanwhile, the acrimony over the sacking of Mr Druery as Senator Muir's chief of staff continues. On Saturday, Fairfax Media revealed an extraordinary incident report, accusing Motoring Enthusiast Party founder Keith Littler of sexism, racism and bullying and revealing a toxic power struggle between him and Mr Druery.

It has now emerged that Mr Druery offered to reform the disbanded Victorian branch of the Motoring Enthusiasts and work to get Mr Littler a seat in the state upper house at the election in November.

He has accused Mr Littler of being behind his sacking and also claimed he has a plot to take Senator Muir's seat.

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