One Nation Queensland preference plan 'designed to do Labor over'
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.
One Nation national leader Pauline Hanson and Queensland leader Steve Dickson gearing up for the state election.