Federal Labor MP and former Treasurer Chris Bowen (pictured) is refusing to respond to reports that he engaged in a preference deal with Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party (CDP) ahead of last weekend’s election.
The Star Observer was alerted to the apparent preference deal earlier this week by a concerned source who wishes to remain anonymous. It is believed Bowen promised the CDP that he will always oppose marriage equality while in parliament if the local CDP candidate in Bowen’s electorate of McMahon, Manny Poularas, directed preferences his way ahead of Liberal candidate Ray King.
Labor officials in the weeks leading up to the election were concerned Bowen would lose the western Sydney seat; on polling day, however, Bowen ended up holding onto his seat with 56 per cent of the two-party-preferred vote, suffering only a 1.9 per cent swing against him. A look at the votes suggests Bowen may not have required the preferences of the CDP after the conservative Christian party received just under 1,900 votes; about 50 per cent less than in the 2010 election.
Although Bowen has refused to confirm or deny the claims after being afforded at least three opportunities to do so, Nile himself has told the Star Observer no deal ever took place.
“The CDP did not make any deal but we hope Mr Bowen will again vote against any future same-sex homosexual marriage legislation,” Nile said.
Speaking to the Star Observer this week, McMahon resident and well-known marriage equality advocate Geoff Thomas said he was extremely disheartened to see the CDP listed second on Bowen’s how-to-vote card when he went to the polling booths on September 7.
“I’m surprised but not surprised,” Thomas said.
“If you had a look at [Bowen's] ticket, his preference for the CDP was out of sequence. I picked up on it as soon as I saw the paper. I thought that was a bit bizarre.”
Thomas met with Bowen last August after the Labor MP had indicated he would vote against marriage equality legislation, not because he was against it personally but because he believed his electorate did not support the reform.
At the time, Bowen had said Thomas and his family were the only constituents from his electorate who had expressed their support to him for same-sex marriage laws.
“What I would say to Chris is that he didn’t need the preferences from the CDP,” Thomas said.
“For years, Chris Bowen has personally supported marriage equality but he doesn’t trust the opinions of his own electorate and he is fearful of what people may do to him.
“My message to him is he need not be fearful.”
Bowen is not the only politician to come under fire for their choice to preference the CDP at Saturday’s polls.
The Liberal candidate for Sydney, the openly-gay Sean O’Connor, came under immense criticism in the days leading up the election after the Star Observer revealed he had decided to preference the CDP third on his How-To-Vote card.