The blame game has begun in the WA Liberal Party after Saturday’s crushing election defeat, with some ousted MPs criticising the way their campaign was run as well as pointing the finger at Colin Barnett’s leadership.
Much of the focus has been on the controversial and ultimately doomed preference swap deal with Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.
Upper House MP Phil Edman, who appears to have lost his seat, took aim at the party figures who orchestrated the One Nation deal.
“The kingmakers and the powerbrokers of our Liberal Party have got a lot to answer for,” Mr Edman said.
“I think the One Nation preference deal did us a lot of damage … I think it is the main thing that caused us damage.”
But the fallout hasn’t been confined to the western side of the nation. Questions are being asked about why Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was sitting in a pub drinking beer with two satirists as voters issued a damning indictment of the WA Liberals.
Mr Turnbull also brushed aside questions about the preference deal with One Nation, saying the loss can be put down to the ‘it’s time’ factor.
He also scoffed at suggestions that the historic 15 per cent swing against the state government was influenced by a distaste for the federal Liberals.
Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce was more direct, however, saying the preference agreement “was a mistake”.
He described One Nation’s performance as “a bit of a shocker” and admitted the Liberal Party had overestimated support for Pauline Hanson’s anti-immigration views.
“All the imbroglio regarding preferences means people start to over-assess and exaggerate what they think the support is of their new partner, and they confuse their constituency,” Mr Joyce said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pounced on the controversy, demanding Mr Turnbull promise the Liberal Party will never do a preference deal with the anti-immigration party.
“Mr Turnbull should say he’s heard the lessons of West Australia, he should rule out once and for all doing any further deals with One Nation – he is the national leader,” he said.
Greens Leader Richard Di Natale was more forthright.
“If you side up with a party that is openly racist, bigoted, short-sighted, xenophobic, economically illiterate you will be punished for it, and that’s what we saw with Colin Barnett’s result in WA,” Senator Di Natale told Sky News.
Going back for more?
Despite the controversy, Mr Turnbull paid tribute to Mr Barnett and refused to rule out future preference deals with One Nation.
“[Colin Barnett] has played a great innings magnificently,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Sydney on Sunday.
Asked whether doing a preference deal with One Nation rather than the Nationals was a mistake, Mr Turnbull said this was a matter for the relevant division of the party and was entered into with the intention of maximising Liberal parliamentary representation.
“The next federal election is more than two years away and all preference divisions will be considered by the party organisation closer to an election,” he said.
– with ABC, AAP