The federal government must “take its medicine” and learn from the West Australian Liberal Party’s landslide defeat at the polls at the weekend, Treasurer Scott Morrison says.
Labor swept into office to end eight and a half years in opposition, leaving the Liberals now trying to determine where it all went wrong.
Mr Morrison said the result was disappointing but could not be blamed on the WA Liberal Party’s decision to preference One Nation over traditional allies the Nationals in some regional Upper House seats.
“Honestly, if people think that is the reason the WA State Government lost the election on the weekend, I think they are kidding themselves,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.
“We lost it because we have been in there for some time and there are other issues locally that took their toll, and you’ve just got to take your medicine and move forward.”
The comments came after Federal Nationals leader and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said the preference deal was “a mistake”.
“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.
The preference deal has been criticised by some WA Liberals as a major distraction that turned voters away from the party.
Former Nationals senator Ron Boswell warned the Coalition could lose moderate and conservative voters if it continued to make deals with Pauline Hanson’s party.
“If you stick your five fingers in a fan and you lose them, you don’t go out and stick your other five fingers in the fan and lose those too,” he said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he had nothing to do with state preference deals and would not be drawn on the party’s preference strategy for the next federal election.
“The next federal election is more than two years away and all preference decisions will be considered by the part organisation closer to the election,” he said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called on Mr Turnbull to promise the Federal Liberal Party would never enter similar preference deals with One Nation.
The Treasurer said the preference deal was unlikely to be replicated in other states where Liberals and the Nationals work as a Coalition rather than an alliance.
He said the election result could have been worse had it not been for improvements in the final stages of the campaign.
“Things improved for us over the course of the campaign but nevertheless, we did see that coming and it’s unfortunate I think, but the voters have spoken,” he said.
‘I think it’s fantastic’: Hanson
Mr Morrison said the election result should serve as a lesson to the Federal Government and Senator Hanson, whose party did not poll as well as expected.
The party has recorded 4.7 per cent of the primary vote and is tipped to claim two Upper House seats.
“Pauline Hanson is the leader of a political party and she is going to get judged for her policies and she is going to get judged on her candidates,” Mr Morrison said.
“They got a message on the weekend, as did we on the weekend in WA, and you’ve got to learn from that.”
But Senator Hanson said the election result was “fantastic” and accused the media of not reporting the true scale of her victories.
“You have to remember that we have been in this for 50 days, we had no structure in the state whatsoever,” she told Channel Seven.
“We have only just got [the] party registered and 50 candidates to stand, with this sort of results, I think it’s fantastic.
“I’m absolutely thrilled about it.”
Federal Infrastructure Minster Darren Chester described One Nation’s campaign as “terrible” and “a flop”.
“That doesn’t mean much in terms of what the impacts will be through Australia,” he told Sky News.
“She has obviously got a much stronger base in Queensland and in other states [and] I’m sure she will look at her campaign and try to rebuild.”