The Liberal party faced questions as its state division preferenced One Nation ahead of the National party for the Western Australia election. Other state divisions, such as Queensland, are reportedly considering to follow suit.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defended the party’s decision on Monday, saying One Nation is not “a single issue party or a single personality party”.
“It is a substantial crossbench party in the Senate and it is taking a policy position on a wide range of issues,” Turnbull said.
“It is not a single issue party or a single personality party. We deal with it constructively and respectfully because we respect the fact that each of those One Nation senators has been democratically elected.”
Turnbull also added that preference deals were up to individual Liberal state divisions.
The Liberal party has denounced Pauline Hanson’s party multiple times in the past. In 2001, then Liberal prime minister John Howard said One Nation should be preferenced last in Liberal how-to-vote card due to the party’s racism. Before the 2016 election, Turnbull said, “Pauline Hanson is, as far as we are concerned, not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene. You’ve got to remember she was chucked out of the Liberal Party.”
Leader of the National party and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said Turnbull’s decision was “disappointing”, and warned Turnbull not to stray from the Liberal-National alliance.
“We won’t, but it could easily be that the National Party could stand in every Lower House seat in Perth and preference another party. What would that mean? You’d lose a heap of seats, simple as that,” said Joyce.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has criticised the Liberal party’s preference deal with One Nation, saying it is a desperate move from a party that has condemned Pauline Hanson and her group in the past.
Shorten said he had advised Labor party to preference One Nation last for the next federal election. “It’s clear to me that One Nation’s political agenda clashes with Labor values,” said Shorten in a statement to his party. “Labor believes in an Australia where no-one is limited by their faith, their race, by where they were born or who they love. That’s not the Australia of the One Nation party… In the Labor Party, we choose what we stand for – and it’s not fear, division or the politics of ‘us vs them’.”