THE WA National Party has copped a hammering over its decision to preference minor parties ahead of the Liberals on the Senate ticket for this weekend’s federal election.
The Nationals grabbed headlines last week after announcing they had distributed their second preferences to the Christian Democratic Party (CDP) ahead of their Coalition colleagues.
They also caused conjecture among regional voters by placing Green candidates at 11, 12 and 13 on their ticket.
In what was an unprecedented move, Tthe Nationals listed the Christian Democratic Party’s lead senate candidate Gerard Goiran ahead of the Liberals’ third candidate Michaelia Cash.
The move could have significant and adverse consequences for the Liberals.
If National Party preferences are directed first to the two Liberal senators at te top of the ticket, David Johnston and Alan Eggleston, they will have to be elected on their primary vote and consequently will not collect any preferences from their Coalition partner.
Effectively, the National preferences will then flow direct to the Christian Democratic Party.
In exchange, the CDP has agreed to preference the Nationals’ O’Connor candidate Philip Gardiner ahead of Liberal rival and sitting member MHR Wilson Tuckey.
Liberal Party O’Connor division president Jim Chown told Farm Weekly he was bitterly disappointed at the Nationals’ decision to support minor parties ahead of his party.
Mr Chown said the WA Nationals and their candidates had finally shown rural residents how desperate they were to retain their position as a fringe political party with only minor influence.
He described the deal as a last ditch attempt to boost Mr Gardiner’s “slim chances” of toppling Mr Tuckey.
Mr Chown, who is also Mr Tuckey’s campaign committee chairman, sent a firm warning to country voters as they prepared to hit the polling booths this Saturday to decide who will run the country for the next three years.
He said the preference deal had disclosed to the regions how the National Party was prepared to “do anything” to retain its political position, such as collude with the Labor Party and the Greens.
Mr Chown said the reciprocal preference deal was designed to enhance Mr Gardiner’s chances of winning O’Connor, but conceded it was a counterproductive move.
Mr Tuckey has held O’Connor since 1980, turning it into one of the safest Liberal seats in Australia with a 20.3pc majority.
He is at long odds to retain his seat, despite the preference deal.
“All rural and regional electors must now be aware that this association with Labor and the Greens makes a mockery of the National Party mantra that they are a party representing rural WA,” Mr Chown said.
“In fact, these preference deals highlight the fact that the WA Nationals are now nothing more than waterboys for the Labor Party and the Greens.”