Support for One Nation and the Liberal National Party is neck and neck in the Queensland seat of Dawson, according to new polling.
The poll, commissioned by the left-leaning Australia Institute and conducted by ReachTEL, put One Nation and the LNP on even footing at 30 per cent and 30.4 per cent of first preference votes.
The polling followed warnings from a number of Coalition politicians that the party was drifting too far from its conservative base, most recently from former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Mr Abbott’s warning last week the party was at risk of becoming “Labor lite” followed the departure of conservative senator Cory Bernardi, who said the political class was “out of touch” with ordinary Australians.
Dawson is currently held by fractious LNP MP George Christensen, who has repeatedly threatened the Coalition with leaving the party if it did not return to its conservative roots.
Most recently, Mr Christensen penned — but did not send — a “letter of demand” to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which he threatened to resign.
Of the 863 people polled on February 20, 66 per cent supported a royal commission into Australian banks and financial institutions.
Such a royal commission is something Mr Turnbull has repeatedly spoken against.
But Mr Christensen has been a vocal critic of the banking sector, telling the ABC earlier this month he intended to cross the floor in support of independent MP Bob Katter’s bill for a royal commission if it was put to a vote.
Sugar dispute souring party harmony
Mr Christensen has also been campaigning hard for the sugar industry, with his seat forming one of the main centres for the industry.
Mackay Sugar, the country’s second largest sugar milling company, has three of its four mills based in the Mackay region and is facing more than $200 million of debt.
In calling for government intervention into the sugar industry stoush — a dispute which has been running for nearly three years — with his party leader Barnaby Joyce also pushing for a mandatory code of conduct in the sugar industry.
Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce said even if it meant making it a condition of the Coalition agreement between the federal Liberal and National parliamentary parties, he was determined to do it.
Talking to the ABC on Sunday, Mr Joyce emphasised that the Coalition was the only party in a position to fix the crisis.
“In government, you can actually fix things,” he said. “You can go the periphery, stand on your soapbox and scream at the moon. It sounds great, but it doesn’t get much done.”
But One Nation has also been meeting with representatives of the sugar industry as part of the party’s campaign in the lead-up to the Queensland state election.
Party leader Pauline Hanson has raised the dispute several times in the Upper House, citing her own meetings with farmers and pressing the Government on what action it was taking.
Last year, Senator Hanson talked up her party as a threat to established rural parties such as the Nationals, which saw a 4.2 per cent swing away from Mr Christensen in Dawson at the last federal election.
The 2016 election saw a 3.6 per cent swing away from the LNP on first preference votes with conservative minor parties such as Family First and the Lazarus Team gaining support.