One Na­tion Queens­land pref­er­ence plan 'de­signed to do La­bor over'

The Guardian Australia - - Headlines - Joshua Robert­son

One Na­tion’s plan to di­rect pref­er­ences against sit­ting MPs in the Queens­land elec­tion is a ploy to sug­gest dis­tance from both ma­jor par­ties but is “ac­tu­ally de­signed to do La­bor over”, says La­bor’s state sec­re­tary.

Pauline Han­son’s party is viewed by La­bor strate­gists as a cred­i­ble chance of tak­ing up to six seats and seiz­ing the bal­ance of power in coali­tion with the Lib­eral Na­tional party.

But Han­son’s chief of staff, James Ashby, has con­ceded One Na­tion was hurt by a pref­er­ence deal with the Lib­er­als in the Western Aus­tralian elec­tion, and would in­stead sug­gest its vot­ers shun both La­bor and LNP in­cum­bents in Queens­land.

La­bor state sec­re­tary Evan Moor­head said One Na­tion’s pref­er­ence de­ci­sion had “raised the stakes” in the state con­test but the party’s “big im­pact on the elec­tion is when they come sec­ond, not their pref­er­ences”.

Moor­head said One Na­tion would be pref­er­enc­ing against the LNP in seats where it was likely to fin­ish sec­ond to the LNP any­way, such as War­rego, Cal­lide, Nanango and South­ern Downs.

“It’s clever but it’s ac­tu­ally de­signed to do us over,” he told Guardian Aus­tralia.

La­bor putting One Na­tion last on how to vote cards would save the LNP in those seats – whereas in these and oth­ers such as Ip­swich West and Glad­stone, LNP pref­er­ences to One Na­tion would hurt La­bor, Moor­head said.

“So the real de­ci­sion is whether [LNP leader Tim] Ni­cholls is go­ing to push more One Na­tion MPs into par­lia­ment to help them get the bal­ance of power,” he said.

One Na­tion’s state leader, Steve Dick­son, the MP who de­fected from the LNP to the resur­gent far-right party, later said the po­si­tion Ashby out­lined to the Aus­tralian could change.

Ni­cholls has left the door open to gov­ern­ing with One Na­tion sup­port and break­ing the long­stand­ing bi­par­ti­san prac­tice of putting One Na­tion last in at least some seats.

But he said in state par­lia­ment on Thursday that La­bor would ben­e­fit from One Na­tion votes. Ni­cholls said La­bor and the premier, An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk, were “red hot to do a deal with the red­head [Han­son]” and that “a vote for One Na­tion is clearly a vote for La­bor gov­ern­ment”.

Moor­head said One Na­tion had made it clear that “they will never vote for us [in gov­ern­ment] in a mil­lion years” and if La­bor failed to gain an out­right ma­jor­ity, it would be­come the op­po­si­tion.

But with both ma­jor party pri­mary votes in state polling hav­ing fallen to­wards 30% and One Na­tion’s re­cently rang­ing from 13% to 18%, there was “no way” the LNP could reach 47 seats for a ma­jor­ity in the next par­lia­ment, he said.

“It now means Ni­cholls can’t win with­out [One Na­tion] but what it also means is that, if he says there’s no deal, he has noth­ing to lose by putting them last,” he said. “But what this is about is him know­ing that him get­ting up One Na­tion to take seats off us is as good as him win­ning a seat.”

Based on One Na­tion’s pre­vi­ous high-wa­ter mark in Queens­land in 1998, it was a chance of wrest­ing an equal num­ber of seats from La­bor and the LNP, Moor­head said.

Grif­fith univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Paul Wil­liams said One Na­tion’s move had “re­ally changed the con­tin­gency of the LNP de­ci­sion” on pref­er­ences.

“It’s prob­a­bly a smart strat­egy

from One Na­tion in a sense be­cause it’s ‘a pox on both your houses’, which plays into their nar­ra­tive per­fectly,” he said. “The only thing we can say for cer­tain is that One Na­tion will be un­will­ing to go in with their arms around the LNP say­ing, ‘we’re go­ing to de­feat La­bor’.”

“We’ve al­ready seen what hap­pened in WA when they got too close to the Lib­er­als and they know that’s toxic and the LNP, quite frankly, knows its toxic as well.”

Wil­liams said it was not known where the LNP would pref­er­ence One Na­tion over La­bor but “we have a fair idea” it would do so in re­gional ar­eas “north of Gympie and west of Ip­swich”.

“And the LNP’s hop­ing, think­ing that that will be enough – to give them enough lever­age to con­trol the game,” he said.

Wil­liams said up to 80% of One Na­tion vot­ers ap­peared to have de­fected from the LNP, which would likely get their pref­er­ences “ir­re­spec­tive of what the One Na­tion party says on its how-to-vote card”.

“What it looks like is these are hard­core con­ser­va­tives who feel like the fed­eral party un­der Turn­bull and the state party un­der Ni­cholls is just not go­ing in the right di­rec­tion, so they’re go­ing to a hard-right al­ter­na­tive, One Na­tion, and will come back, con­sciously,” Wil­liams said.

Mick Kosenko, a spokesman for the Rebels bikies and prom­i­nent critic of the for­mer LNP gov­ern­ment’s anti-gang laws who will run as an in­de­pen­dent on Bris­bane’s north side, said One Na­tion ap­proached him with a pref­er­ence of­fer a month ago.

“They asked me but I said, I want you to sign this piece of pa­per to sup­port all the other in­de­pen­dents and I haven’t heard from them since,” Kosenko said.

An en­counter with Han­son, Ashby and Queens­land se­na­tor Mal­colm Roberts on a plane to Townsville on 23 Septem­ber had left him none the wiser, he said.

Kosenk is weigh­ing up run­ning ei­ther in La­bor-held Pine Rivers or LNP-held Ever­ton.

Pho­to­graph: Lisa Ma­ree Wil­liams/Getty Im­ages

One Na­tion na­tional leader Pauline Han­son and Queens­land leader Steve Dick­son gear­ing up for the state elec­tion.

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