Na­tion­als suf­fer in the bush

Pilbara News - - News - Dy­lan Ca­porn and So­phie Mor­ris

The WA Na­tion­als have been beaten by Labor in the bush and are be­hind One Na­tion in the Se­nate count, in a chal­lenge to the party’s claim to be the strong­est ad­vo­cate for the re­gions.

The party was, at time of print, lag­ging be­hind Labor can­di­dates in the Lib­eral-held ru­ral elec­torates of O’Con­nor and Du­rack.

WA Na­tion­als leader Terry Red­man con­ceded it was a dis­ap­point­ing out­come.

He said the party would re­view its per­for­mance ahead of the State elec­tion in March af­ter fail­ing to gain trac­tion on key is­sues.

“We’d love to per­form bet­ter, but if you look back at the his­tory of vot­ing in Western Aus­tralia in terms of those re­gional seats in par­tic­u­lar, we per­form very well at a State level, but there’s a strong sup­port for the Lib­eral Party when it goes to a Fed­eral vote,” he said.

“I’ve got peo­ple who are hand­ing out how-to-vote cards on seats down there next to me on the week­end that are hand­ing out for the Lib­eral Party, but come the State elec­tion, they’ll be hand­ing out for the Na­tional Party.”

The re­sult is a far cry from 2010, when the WA Na­tion­als won the seat of O’Con­nor and sent Tony Crook to Can­berra for one term.

This time, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce tried to talk for­mer WA Na­tion­als leader Bren­don Grylls into run­ning for the Up­per House in the hope the lower hur­dle of a dou­ble dis­so­lu­tion elec­tion could de­liver a Se­nate spot.

But Mr Grylls re­buffed Mr Joyce’s ad­vances in April and the party in­stead fielded indige­nous an­thro­pol­o­gist and for­mer Greens can­di­date Kado Muir at the top of its Se­nate ticket.

On the Se­nate count so far, the WA Na­tion­als have at­tracted fewer first pref­er­ence votes than Pauline Han­son’s One Na­tion but have not yet given up on se­cur­ing a spot.

State pres­i­dent James Hay­ward said the party would await the out­come of the Se­nate vote, claim­ing is­sues such as the back­packer tax, re­gional telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and the GST would not have at­tracted at­ten­tion with­out the WA Na­tion­als. “Whilst we didn’t get the re­sult we wanted to, we are fight­ing hard to en­sure the ma­jor par­ties take note and re­spond to re­gional is­sues,” Mr Hay­ward said.

In the north­ern seat of Du­rack, Aus­tralia’s big­gest elec­torate, the count so far shows a 7.2 per cent swing against the Na­tion­als, with the party at­tract­ing just 16 per cent of first pref­er­ences.

In O’Con­nor, the swing against the Na­tion­als so far is 4.9 per cent.

The Greens are await­ing the out­come of their sec­ond Se­nate spot, but se­cured swings to the party in the seats of Perth and Fre­man­tle, reach­ing al­most 17 per cent of the pri­mary vote in both elec­torates, where Labor MPs were re­tir­ing.

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