A jubilant Pauline Hanson is lapping up questions about a prime ministerial tilt as Malcolm Turnbull is left to digest the lowest support levels for the federal coalition since he ousted Tony Abbott.
One Nation garnered eight per cent of the national primary vote in the first Newspoll of the year – double its Senate vote at the July election – as voter support for the government tumbled.
Ahead of parliament returning from its long summer break, backing for the coalition has dropped to its lowest level since Mr Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott as prime minister.
After preferences Labor leads over the coalition 54-46 per cent.
Senator Hanson – who branded the Liberals out of touch and the Nationals irrelevant – on Monday said it would be a “privilege and honour” if ever she were to become prime minister.
“Maybe one day further down the track – in 10, or 15 or 20 years time – who knows what’s going to happen or hand the reigns onto someone who can take One Nation to be government,” she told the Seven Network.
Her crossbench colleague Derryn Hinch is far from convinced.
“Pauline may be the leader of One Nation but luckily she’ll never be the leader of the nation,” he said.
“She’s dedicated, she believes in what she’s doing, but she will not form the opposition or government and that is the fact.”
The Newspoll shows the coalition’s primary vote plunging four points to 35 per cent.
Labor’s primary vote remains unchanged at 36 per cent, with independents and minor parties earning a surge in support from 15 to 19 per cent.
The poll’s findings come after a summer of expenses scandals, the resignation of cabinet minister Sussan Ley, and a backlash over the Centrelink debt recovery system.
Government minister Paul Fletcher was reluctant to discuss the poll’s findings when quizzed by reporters, insisting the coalition was focused on getting on with meeting the needs of Australians.
“That’s our priority,” he said at Canberra airport.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne cackled at Pauline Hanson’s prospect at becoming prime minister when asked at the weekend.
On Monday, he echoed sentiments earlier offered by his boss, saying the government’s priorities were energy prices, childcare fees and creating jobs.
“Whether the polls are up or down in February 2017 when an election is not due until mid-2019 is really neither here nor there,” he told ABC radio.
Meanwhile, the prime minister is facing a fresh headache over revived speculation conservative senator Cory Bernardi may break away from the Liberals as early as this week.