The latest Newspoll delivered more bad news for the coalition, with its primary vote falling for the third time in a row to a near-record low of 34 per cent.
Scott Morrison has doubled his lead over Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister over the past fortnight but his coalition government trails Labor on a two-party-preferred basis by 45 to 55 per cent.
The Prime Minister held a crisis meeting with Victorian MPs in Canberra following the state poll.
Ahead of the meeting, senior Victorian senator Scott Ryan said there should not be litmus tests on social issues or climate change to be considered a “real Liberal” and he cautioned against telling people they are “not conservative enough”.
“Labelling people, dismissing them, that’s not the Liberal way. I want to cast the net wide in the Menzies and Howard tradition, to give people a reason to be Liberals,” Senator Ryan told ABC radio.
“Not come up with litmus tests … that is not the path to electoral success.”
Senator Ryan said the Victorian result saw swings in a swag of “seats that are the cradle of the Liberal Party”.
Victorian Labor smashed the state coalition in Saturday’s poll on the back of a 5 per cent swing.
A string of Liberal seats are at serious risk if the swing to Labor is replicated at a federal level.
Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan, a Victorian Liberal, is urging his colleagues to be calm.
“It’s time for cool heads, calm analysis, get the facts and then we’ve got six months to address it,” he told Sky News.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Labor “shamelessly and wrongly” attacked the coalition on health and education.
“We were beaten pretty comprehensively in the campaign itself, both on the ground and in the advertising,” he said.
“We expect another scare campaign from the Labor Party at the next election, as we saw last time with ‘Mediscare’, and we need to be prepared for that.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said Victorians responded to Labor’s policies for hospitals and schools over “cuts and division” from the Liberals.
“Everywhere I went on Saturday, a lot of people were coming up to me saying when is the federal election and why the federal government so divided all the time?” Shorten told the Nine Network.
Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said the Nationals vote had held up well, but he admitted the result showed the federal election will be difficult.
“It’s going to be really tough and to say anything else is ridiculous,” he told reporters.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann also said dumping Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister had hurt the Liberal vote in Victoria.
“This was an election that was fought on state issues, but I’ll readily concede that the events of a few months ago here in Canberra would not have helped,” Senator Cormann said.
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