Liberal Senator Jim Molan has claimed his supporters were “set up” in a political sting when they were filmed and recorded urging voters to ignore the Coalition ticket.
The New Daily on Wednesday revealed that Liberal MP John Alexander had been caught on tape urging voters not to follow his party’s offical ticket and preference Senator Molan at the expense of the Nationals candidate.
Volunteers for Liberal frontbencher Angus Taylor were filmed doing the same, at the expense of the Coalition’s third-placed candidate, the Nationals’ Perin Davey.
Senator Molan had been dumped to an unwinnable fourth Senate spot.
A furious Barnaby Joyce condemned the actions as a clear breach of the Coalition agreement and warned it could trigger chaos between the two parties.
But an unrepentant Senator Molan said Mr Alexander had been “set up”.
“I reckon … that was the greatest gotcha that I’ve ever laid eyes on,” Senator Molan told 2GB Radio on Wednesday.
“John [Alexander] was doing what he should do for the party.
“What more would you expect from the Labor Party and the Greens three days out from the [election]?” he asked.
Mr Joyce earlier accused the Liberal Party of “firing the first shot” in a civil war with the Nationals.
The former deputy PM said the Prime Minister had to decide how he would respond to the “clear breach” of the agreed voting ticket between the Nationals and the Liberals, but noted the Coalition agreement would need to be renegotiated after Saturday’s election.
“First of all, they fired the first shot,” Mr Joyce told The New Daily.
“That is completely at odds with the Coalition agreement.
“If the Coalition agreement became fractured, bellicose then it would be completely and utterly chaotic. Both sides would lose.”
The Nationals fear the Liberals’ political games could cost them a NSW Senate seat for the first time since Federation.
In response, the Nationals said on Wednesday that they would also release their own Senate voting ticket to protect their candidate.
“There is no point having a Coalition agreement, asking for good faith, and then breaking it because – naturally enough – if one side breaks the agreement, the other side breaks the agreement,” Mr Joyce, a former Nationals leader, said.
“They are doing it because they have to, not because they want it.”
Mr Joyce said Scott Morrison had to decide how he would respond to the fracas.
“I am not here to tell Scott Morrison what to do. We can choose to work together or we can choose not to,” he said.
“The Coalition agreement is always renegotiated after an election. And, you know, that’s a question for the respective leaders to decide how the election was played and what they do next.”
Angry Nationals have called leader Michael McCormack as “weak as piss” on the issue, but Mr Joyce said Mr McCormack was doing his best.
“I know he would have the Nationals’ interests at heart,” he said.
Mr Joyce said the Liberals’ conduct also threatened to reduce the Coalition’s female representation.
“She (Ms Davey) is our No.1 candidate for the National Party. We are trying to proactively follow what people want, which is more female representation,” he said.
The New Daily obtained audio of Mr Alexander – the member for Bennelong – at a pre-poll booth openly urging a voter to support Senator Molan. That is a clear contravention of the Coalition’s offical Senate ticket.
In the recording, Mr Alexander is introduced to a woman who claims to be a “new voter” in the area asking how she should vote in the Senate.
“That’s how you should vote for the Senate. Unless you want to vote for Jim Molan, which you may well,” Mr Alexander says.
“And then you’ve got to fill out all 12. So you put Jim in front, and then vote like that. OK? Lovely.”
Video footage shows Liberal Party volunteers wearing Angus Taylor T-shirts urging voters to ignore the Coalition ticket and elevate Senator Molan to boost his chances of survival.
The female volunteers explain in detail how to vote for Senator Molan below the line – in contravention of the Coalition ticket – telling a voter “You’ve got it” at the end of the instruction.
It is understood the NSW Liberal Party also has photographic surveillance of a former state MP handing out Senator Molan’s rogue ‘how to vote cards’ instead of the Liberal Party ticket.
At the Darley Street pre-poll booth in Manly, NSW, former Liberal MP Bruce Baird was also seen berating a volunteer in a Tony Abbott T-shirt for openly handing out two how-to-vote brochures – one for Tony Abbott and the Liberal Senate ticket and one for Jim Molan’s vote-below-the-line campaign.
“You can’t be doing this. Our party has voted on this,” Mr Baird was overheard saying.
Ms Davey accused Senator Molan of breaking the Coalition agreement to keep his job.
“It is an absolute risk for the Nationals in what Jim Molan is doing,” she said. “It goes against the Coalition agreement.”