One Nation destroyed the Liberals, says Barnaby Joyce
AS the federal Coalition reels from the disastrous performance of the Liberal Party in the West Australian election on the weekend, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has warned the preference deal the party agreed with One Nation should not be repeated anywhere else in the country.
Voters unceremoniously dumped Premier Colin Barnett's Coalition government, handing Labor as many as 40 of the 59 lower house seats in a massive 16 per cent swing in the state poll on Saturday.
A bitter blame game over the appalling Coalition result erupted between Pauline Hanson and the Turnbull government yesterday, with Nationals leader Mr Joyce saying the preference deal with One Nation - negotiated by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann - was a "mistake" and confused WA voters.
"People start to over-assess and exaggerate what they think the support is for their new partner, and (preference deals) also confuse their constituency," Mr Joyce said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian distanced herself from the performance of the WA Liberal Party, but again refused to rule out striking a preference deal with Ms Hanson.
"I think every state government and national government has to be judged on its merits, and the set of circumstances in WA is very different from what we feel here in NSW," said Ms Berejiklian, who faces three by-elections next month.
However, the WA result has also knocked much of the gloss off Ms Hanson's resurgence, with One Nation winning just 4.7 per cent of the primary vote.
Ahead of Saturday's election, Ms Hanson had boasted about winning three lower house seats and had hoped to hold the balance of power - a shattered prospect now.
One Nation failed to win a single seat in the lower house, and is expected to score just one seat in the upper house.
Senior Labor campaign sources said the Liberals' preference deal with One Nation and the economy were two major factors behind their dramatic win.
However, Ms Hanson blamed Mr Barnett's unpopularity for her party's poor performance.
"All I heard all day was 'why are you sending your preferences to the Liberal Party?'," Ms Hanson said.
The preference swap saw the Liberals put One Nation ahead of the Nationals in the upper house in return for votes in several lower house seats.
Yesterday, Senator Cormann was forced to defend his controversial preference decision.
"If we wanted to minimise losses, maximise our chances of holding onto seats, we needed to be able to source preferences - and, clearly, these weren't going to come from Labor and the Greens," he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull refused to rule out a similar preference deal.
"The next federal election is more than two years away and all preference decisions will be considered by the party closer to the election," Mr Turnbull said.
A number of federal Liberal MPs told The Daily Telegraph the preference deal with One Nation also harmed Ms Hanson, as she would no longer be seen as outside the political establishment - a key attraction for many voters.