Han­son slip lifts ma­jor par­ties

The Australian - - FRONT PAGE - SI­MON BEN­SON NA­TIONAL AF­FAIRS EDI­TOR

Pauline Han­son’s sup­port has fallen away, hand­ing Scott Mor­ri­son the equal-best pri­mary vote for the Coali­tion since just after the last elec­tion but also strength­en­ing La­bor’s lead.

The first Newspoll since the May 18 elec­tion was called in the wake of the Coali­tion’s bud­get and Bill Shorten’s bud­get-in-re­ply speech puts the ma­jor par­ties neck and neck on a pri­mary vote of 39 per­cent each.

With pref­er­ences from the Greens, La­bor has main­tained a two-party-pre­ferred vote of 48 per cent to 52 per cent, rep­re­sent­ing a 2.4 per cent swing against the Coali­tion based on the last elec­tion, rep­re­sent­ing the po­ten­tial loss of 10 seats for the Prime Min­is­ter.

Go­ing into the first full week of the cam­paign, Mr Mor­ri­son en­joys an un­changed 11-point lead over the Op­po­si­tion Leader as pre­ferred prime min­is­ter.

The Prime Min­is­ter will to­day head back to Mel­bourne to an­nounce fur­ther in­fras­truc­ture projects in a state that, along­side Queens­land, the Coali­tion be­lieves could hold the key to the elec­tion out­come, with pop­u­la­tion be­ing a hot-but­ton is­sue.

Mr Shorten will re­main in Syd­ney, where he has been cam­paign­ing be­hind en­emy lines in the Lib­eral-held seat of Reid in the in­ner-west­ern sub­urbs, and is to­day ex­pected to keep the pres­sure up on health fund­ing.

With less than five weeks to go be­fore the poll, the Coali­tion has built on a two-point jump in its pri­mary vote two weeks ago by adding a fur­ther point in the lat­est Newspoll, which be­gan sur­vey­ing vot­ers on the day the elec­tion was called.

This has come at the ex­pense of One Na­tion, which has plum­meted to just 4 per cent in the wake of the guns-for-funds scan­dal, with pop­u­lar sup­port falling na­tion­ally to its low­est point since 2016.

The Newspoll showed Mr Mor­ri­son had re­cov­ered all the ground lost since the re­moval of Malcolm Turn­bull, with the best pri­mary vote for the Coali­tion since July 30 last year. This has been the Coali­tion’s high wa­ter mark since Septem­ber 2016, just two months after the last elec­tion.

La­bor’s two-point jump for­ti­fies the party’s elec­tion-win­ning lead de­spite still be­ing down on a high of 41 per cent in the wake of the Lib­eral Party lead­er­ship spill in Au­gust last year.

The fall in One Na­tion sup­port has shifted the elec­toral dial and de­liv­ered the ma­jor par­ties a higher com­bined pri­mary vote than that recorded at the last elec­tion.

Hav­ing peaked at 11 per cent of the na­tional pri­mary vote less than two years ago, Ms Han­son’s con­ser­va­tive mi­nor party has fallen to a low of 4 per cent in the lat­est poll, mark­ing a fur­ther two-point de­cline in the past two weeks.

One Na­tion, which en­joys its high­est pop­u­lar­ity in Queens­land, man­aged 1.3 per cent of the na­tional pri­mary vote at the last elec­tion.

How­ever, it man­aged to snatch four Se­nate spots — two in Queens­land, one in NSW and one in West­ern Aus­tralia. Changes to the Se­nate vot­ing sys­tem un­der the Turn­bull govern­ment cost the mi­nor party a po­ten­tial fifth spot.

Se­nior LNP sources said One Na­tion was still strong in mar­ginal cen­tral Queens­land seats, which meant the party could still be a de­cid­ing fac­tor in the out­come of the elec­tion. How­ever, the source said the party’s vote would have “come off” in south­east Queens­land and NSW fol­low­ing the guns scan­dal.

The col­lapse in sup­port for the right-wing na­tion­al­ist party fol­lows rolling scan­dals, in­clud­ing

Pauline Han­son is aban­don­ing One Na­tion’s 2016 fed­eral elec­tion strategy of pref­er­enc­ing against sit­ting MPs in a move that could boost Coali­tion stocks in the cru­cial bat­tle­ground of Queens­land.

Join­ing the cam­paign after re­cov­er­ing from surgery to re­move her ap­pen­dix, Sen­a­tor Han­son said pref­er­ences would be al­lo­cated on a “seat-by-seat’’ ba­sis in a de­par­ture from One Na­tion’s how-to-vote cards that cost the Lib­eral Na­tional Party at least two key seats at the last elec­tion.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The Aus­tralian, the One Na­tion leader blamed the rise of com­pet­ing right-wing mi­nor par­ties and “a lot con­fu­sion” among vot­ers that had led to a fall in sup­port in re­cent polls.

Sen­a­tor Han­son dis­missed sug­ges­tions the Al-Jazeera in­ves­ti­ga­tion — link­ing her ad­vis­ers to do­na­tion dis­cus­sions with the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion in the US — or sup­port for Coali­tion leg­is­la­tion had hurt the party.

The lat­est Newspoll shows sup­port for One Na­tion has fallen two points to 4 per cent of the na­tional vote, in line with a down­ward trend over re­cent months for the party that se­cured four Se­nate seats at the 2016 elec­tion.

Sen­a­tor Han­son said the party’s per­for­mance at the 2016 elec­tion and in sub­se­quent state elec­tions — pick­ing up a seat in Queens­land, four up­per house seats in West­ern Aus­tralia and pos­si­bly two in NSW — showed polling day was the “real gauge’’.

“So what we have achieved has been tremen­dous com­pared to the other po­lit­i­cal par­ties — they have not gained the trac­tion with the pub­lic, and what the pub­lic want,” she said. “Peo­ple are ter­ri­bly con­fused but they also fed up with the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“There is a lot of com­pe­ti­tion around for the votes and the mi­nor par­ties try­ing to get those votes.’’

Sen­a­tor Han­son said Scott Mor­ri­son had been “a fool’’ to an­nounce that the Liberals would put La­bor ahead of One Na­tion, after the air­ing of the Al-Jazeera in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

On pub­lished polling, One Na­tion, Kat­ter’s Aus­tralian Party and Clive Palmer’s United Aus­tralia Party are un­likely to win lower house seats, but their pref­er­ences could be de­ci­sive in tight con­tests be­tween the ma­jor par­ties, par­tic­u­larly in Queens­land.

Sen­a­tor Han­son said she sus­pected John Howard had “coun­selled” the Prime Min­is­ter to adopt the strategy in a bid to de­stroy One Na­tion, adding that the for­mer prime min­is­ter “needs to go … and have a full-time re­tire­ment’’.

“John Howard is en­cour­ag­ing Mor­ri­son to put One Na­tion last with­out re­ally think­ing that 67 per cent of our pref­er­ences flow into the con­ser­va­tive side,’’ Sen­a­tor Han­son said. “They can’t af­ford to do that in an elec­tion that is go­ing to be so tight that they need ev­ery seat they can get.’’

Sen­a­tor Han­son con­ceded that One Na­tion’s de­ci­sion in 2016 to pref­er­ence most sit­ting MPs next to last to the Greens helped La­bor take the Townsville-based seat of Her­bert and outer-met­ro­pol­i­tan seat of Long­man from LNP MPs.

Asked whether she in­tended to re­peat the near-blan­ket strategy to pref­er­ence against sit­ting mem­bers in Queens­land — where the LNP holds 21 of 30 seats, with eight on mar­gins of 4 per cent or less — Sen­a­tor Han­son said: “I am look­ing at it on a seat-by-seat ba­sis.

“There is a whole mixed bag that I’m ac­tu­ally look­ing at,” she said, adding that an an­nounce­ment would be made in com­ing weeks.

“I am not here to shore up the La­bor Party, I am not here to shore up the Coali­tion.

“My de­ci­sion will be based on what is right for the peo­ple and coun­try and en­sur­ing One Na­tion is not go­ing to get de­stroyed be­cause they are de­ter­mined to get rid of us.’’

Sen­a­tor Han­son con­firmed that One Na­tion would ex­change pref­er­ences with KAP.

‘There is a whole mixed bag I’m ac­tu­ally look­ing at. I am not here to shore up the La­bor Party (or) the Coali­tion’ PAULINE HAN­SON

TOM HUNT­LEY

Pauline Han­son in Ade­laide yes­ter­day, join­ing the cam­paign after re­cov­er­ing from ill­ness

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