Malcolm Turnbull has refused to rule out a preference deal with One Nation as recriminations grow within the Liberal Party about the WA election result.
Pressed yesterday on whether the Liberal Party would direct preferences to One Nation as it had done in WA, the Prime Minister maintained it was an issue for party officials to decide.
“The next Federal election is more than two years away,” Mr Turnbull said. “All preference decisions will be considered by the party organisation closer to an election.”
Senior WA Liberal Mathias Cormann also refused to rule out a future preference deal, saying One Nation preferences may help the Liberal Party hold the seats of Jandakot and Geraldton.
He said internal polling had the Liberal primary vote about 29 per cent, so something had to be done to find preferences.
“If we wanted to minimise losses, maximise our chances of holding on to seats we needed to be able to source preferences. Clearly, these weren’t going to come from the Labor and the Greens,” Senator Cormann told ABC television.
There are deep concerns inside the WA and Federal Liberal parties about deals with One Nation in the looming Queensland election and the next national poll.
One Liberal MP said Mr Turnbull could not afford to lose one seat in the House of Representatives or the Senate. They said another problem was the claim that by preferencing One Nation ahead of the Nationals, the Liberal vote would be maximised.
“Their assumptions were wrong, they were seriously wrong,” the Liberal MP said.
Federal Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the election was overwhelmingly fought on State issues, but the one Federal lesson was One Nation’s poor showing.
“One Nation is nothing like the force people thought it would be,” Mr Porter said.
“Yes, it’s been a tough night for the Liberal Party. It’s been an immense shock I think for One Nation because they were expecting to do well better than what they have and really, they were just also-rans in this election.”
Mr Porter maintained the divisive preference deal between the Liberals and One Nation had no impact.
“It didn’t do us much good but it didn’t do us any harm and I just think there were other issues at play,” he said.
Victorian Liberal Tim Wilson took to Twitter to argue the party should not get so close to One Nation.
“Shouldn’t follow Putin-fawning PHON. We are not PHON-lite. We are Liberals, and proud of it,” he said.