Nationals suffer in the bush
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.