The Liberal National party’s decision to direct Queensland voters to place One Nation second on their Senate ballots could be “the deciding factor” that sees Pauline Hanson re-elected, experts say.
It is a strategic move which political opponents have seized on as one which could alienate moderate voters within the party and see a backlash against Liberals in marginal seats.
The electoral analyst Ben Raue said that of six Senate spots up for grabs in Queensland at this election, Labor would probably win two, the Greens one and the LNP at least two.
That could see the Liberal senator Amanda Stoker, United Australia party’s Clive Palmer, the Liberal Democrats’ Campbell Newman and Hanson competing for the final spot.
Should the LNP win more than enough votes to elect two Senate candidates, but not quite enough to land three, Raue said their voters’ preferences could be decisive.
“If they fall in that sweet spot, those preferences could be the deciding factor,” he said.
One Nation made headlines on Thursday when the minor party announced it would target “left-leaning Liberals” by directing preferences away from the likes of Bridget Archer in the ultra-marginal Tasmanian seat of Bass.
Scott Morrison was in the marginal north Queensland seat of Leichhardt that morning, when he was asked if that ploy could snuff out his chances of winning a majority government by unseating the area’s socially progressive MP, Warren Entsch.
“I think there’s further information to come on that, particularly in relation to Queensland,” Morrison said.
Later that day, One Nation confirmed it would not be targeting Entsch and made no mention of any Queenslanders on its preference hitlist.
The Coalition has also released its how-to-vote cards, directing voters to list One Nation second, UAP third and Liberal Democrats fourth.
Raue said this recommendation was more significant than any from One Nation, whose voters do not like to take directions. In contrast, Liberal voters were “probably the most loyal” and the party had the volunteers and resources to hand out enough cards on election day to make an impact.
“Major party conservative voters, Liberal voters, are the most disciplined when it comes to following how-to-vote cards,” Raue said.
“So if this is a deal, they [One Nation] have got the better end of the deal.”
However, it was a move which he said could see a backlash against moderate Liberal MPs, such as Trevor Evans in the marginal seat of Brisbane and Julian Simmonds in nearby Ryan.
Simmonds holds Ryan by a margin of 6%. It’s a seat that the Greens see as a two-horse race between Simmonds and their candidate, Elizabeth Watson-Brown.
The incumbent is recommending voters preference his Greens challenger last, below candidates from UAP, One Nation and Liberal Democrats.
“I don’t think it is gonna go down well here in Ryan,” Watson-Brown said.
“The sense we are getting is that there is a whole lot of people, traditional Liberal voters, who are fed up with them, fed up with the conservative lines they are pushing and absolutely fed up with their inaction on climate change.”
Comment has been sought from Simmonds and Evans.
Disaffection among conservative voters could also be felt in more regional areas, said Beryce Nelson, who represented both the Liberal and National parties in the state parliament during the 1980s.
Nelson said she was “disappointed, but not surprised” by the LNP’s Senate how-to-vote card.
“It’s pure mathematics, they would rather have [Hanson] in the Senate,” she said.
“It’s all about Morrison’s style of attempted leadership, which is all about control.”
Nelson said she now described herself as politically independent after the LNP had “lurched to the right” and been “cannibalised by extremists”.
She supported her local MP in the seat of Blair, Labor’s Shayne Neumann, because of “his decency” and said other former LNP voters also couldn’t support the Morrison government.
“It’s about bad behaviour,” she said. “It’s a bit like sending them to the sin bin.”
The Liberal Democrats president, John Humphreys, said he believed the LNP was being “vengeful” in not directing preferences to Newman, the former Queensland premier who was at one stage “one of the most senior Liberal figures in the country”.
“We were disappointed the LNP put Campbell behind Pauline and Clive on their Senate ticket, especially since polling shows that Campbell is more popular among LNP voters than any of their own state MPs,” Humphreys said.
The Queensland Conservation Council director, Dave Copeman, said the move was a sign the LNP had not “moved beyond the climate wars”.
He said One Nation members had been “dismissive of climate science” and had promoted “conspiracy theories”, and that the election needed to deliver a parliament committed to net zero and climate action.
“Business knows this, the community knows this, but our politics seems to be stuck in the climate wars, and One Nation is the worst example of that,” he said.