Campaign stumbles, candidate controversies and Pauline Hanson’s widely criticised television appearance on Sunday are unlikely to stop the rise of One Nation when Western Australians go to the polls at the weekend.
Political analysts on Monday agreed the party could pick up at least three seats in the state’s upper house, possibly enough to give them the balance of power.
But campaign missteps may have scuppered One Nation’s chances at an all-important lower house seat as the party faces its biggest test since last year’s federal election.
Ms Hanson hit the campaign trail in Perth on Monday amid the fallout from Sunday’s TV interview where she questioned vaccinations and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Despite polling as high as 13 per cent, the party’s campaign has been dogged by various controversies, such as Pilbara candidate David Archibald once describing single mothers as “lazy and ugly”, and a decision to make a preference deal with the Liberals, experts said.
A ReachTEL poll in late February found the party’s primary vote had dipped to 8.5 per cent, down from 9.9 per cent in November.
On Sunday, a Galaxy survey had One Nation at 9 per cent, with Labor, led by Mark McGowan, holding a commanding 54-46 lead over Colin Barnett’s Liberal government.
Murdoch University Western Australian political expert Dr Ian Cook said One Nation would struggle to win a lower house seat.
“In the Legislative Council, we’re looking at the probability of three or four seats. It’s going to be a pretty tight result there,” he told The New Daily.
“They may end up holding the balance of power in the upper house.”
Tshung Chang, One Nation candidate for Treasurer Mike Nahan’s seat of Riverton, said the party was targeting the mining electorates of Pilbara, held by Nationals leader Brendan Grylls and Labor-held Collie-Preston.
Mr Chang told The New Daily he was “not at all” concerned that Ms Hanson’s comments about vaccinations or Mr Putin would impact the party’s fortunes.
Rising in Queensland, Tasmania
The party’s performance on Saturday may also provide clues to its fortunes in Queensland, where an election is tipped for the second half of 2017.
In February, a Galaxy Poll showed the party’s support had shot up from 16 to 23 per cent in just three months.
It won 11 seats with a 23 per cent primary vote in 1998.
But Perth-based political analyst William Bowe said the WA result may not mean much in Queensland.
“Without being too parochial, people in Sydney or Melbourne think ‘Queensland, Western Australia, they’re the two redneck states. They’re one and the same’,” he told The New Daily.
“But there are differences in the political cultures of the two states. Far right, almost US Republican-style politics has deep roots in Queensland but that’s not so much the case here.”
The party’s decision to swap preferences with the Liberals was a mistake they should avoid making again in Queensland, according to Mr Bowe.
“The view was the momentum the party has built up was only going to snowball in an election campaign,” he said.
“What’s actually happened is that the party cut a preference deal with the Liberals and have been very surprised by the severity of the backlash.
“The lesson here is that if One Nation do that, they are blowing a hole in their whole appeal.”
Meanwhile, in Tasmania, the party debuted at six per cent support in a state poll on Monday as the governing Liberal Party slipped 5 per cent since November.