Scott Morrison’s pledge to put One Nation below Labor on how-to-vote cards will not be honoured by the Nationals, prompting claims his backdown is “sneaky” and carves out Queensland.
The split between the Nationals and the Liberals emerged on Thursday, as Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack refused to back the PM’s plan.
It means that in Queensland, where One Nation has the strongest support, Pauline Hanson’s party will still be allowed to benefit from Liberal preferences.
The Prime Minister announced on Thursday that the Liberals would preference One Nation after Labor, confirming he had spoken to predecessor John Howard about the issue.
“I haven’t rushed into this decision, in the same way that John Howard – who I have been consulting closely on this matter – he, indeed, did not rush into this decision when he took it 20 years ago. I was waiting to see what their reaction was to the events of this week and I was disappointed by that reaction,” Mr Morrison said.
“This is a decision I have taken in concert with the party organisation and discussed with the federal president, state president, particularly the Queensland LNP president … What the Nationals do is a matter for them.”
Mr Morrison’s decision follows The New Daily‘s report earlier on Thursday that Victorian Liberals had warned his refusal to preference One Nation last was contributing to a likely election “bloodbath” in the southern state. They had asked Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to ask the PM to act.
Mr Morrison has now instructed party officials across Australia to put One Nation below Labor on Liberal Party how-to-vote cards, despite him previously claiming it was a matter for the state organisation.
“My recommendation to them, which they are accepting, is that One Nation be put below the Labor Party at the next election by the Liberal Party,” he said.
“This is a decision which is based on our strong view about the sanity of Australia’s gun laws.”
Mr Morrison said One Nation’s response to the revelations in the al-Jazeera documentary was not satisfactory. He was particularly shocked by footage of Senator Hanson discussing conspiracy theories about the 1996 Port Arthur massacre.
“The comments … I’m sure all Australians would be shocked about,” he said.
“These gun laws have kept Australia safe for 20 years and had led the world, and it’s one of the Liberal Party’s most proud achievements –together with the National Party – and when it comes to this issue, we cannot allow it to be compromised or sliced away.”
Fantastic to hear @ScottMorrisonMP will formally put @OneNationAus & @PaulineHansonOz below mainstream parties. Disloyal traitors who fan division and sell out our nation to foreign interests aren’t fit to sit in Australia’s Parliament.
— Tim Wilson MP (@TimWilsonMP) March 27, 2019
Mr Morrison’s backflip on preferences comes after weeks of sustained pressure from Labor leader Bill Shorten and revelations in the How to Sell A Massacre documentary.
Later on Thursday, Mr Shorten slammed the PM’s announcement as “sneaky”, given the LNP in Queensland seems to be carved out.
“I’m deeply concerned the LNP in Queensland and the Nationals appear to have been given a leave pass by their Prime Minister to keep doing secret preference deals with One Nation,” he said.
“This is sneaky. He can’t bring himself to put One Nation last because he wants their preferences if he can get away with it.
“You can’t pretend to stand up for middle Australia while your government colleagues are swapping preferences with conspiracy theorists and con men.”
Mr Morrison has tried several positions on One Nation, including pledging “no deals” and, this week, stating that he did not “want their preferences but the primary vote” of the party’s supporters.
But Thursday’s move leaves the door open for Queensland to put the Greens last, after MPs from that state raised concerns about preferencing One Nation below the “extreme-left” party.
“Frankly, I always found the Greens to be a real serious danger to Australia,” Mr Morrison said on Thursday.
“The Greens have opposed us on almost every element of national security legislation we have put into this Parliament.”
Earlier, The New Daily confirmed that Victorian Liberals had urged Mr Frydenberg to encourage Mr Morrison to “resolve” the preferences saga.
On Wednesday, the threat was underlined by new polling confirming the safe seat of Goldstein is in play at the coming election. Goldstein has never been held by Labor.
The polling, conducted by unions for Victoria’s Trade Hall, suggested Labor is in front in the seat on a 52:48 two-party preferred basis.
It also finds that a majority of Goldstein voters – 61 per cent – want Mr Morrison to put One Nation last on how-to-vote cards at the federal election.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson, the current member for Goldstein, said he hoped the Liberal Party would put One Nation last on its how-to-vote cards.
“I have said One Nation should be last in Goldstein, and I am glad to see my voters agree with me,” he said.
“Goldstein is a forward-looking, modern liberal community that has no time for those that seek to fan division – that is what One Nation does.
“The PM has rightly said there should be no deals, and it is disappointing that Trades Hall and the ACTU are telling people to vote One Nation ahead of mainstream candidates, including myself.”