The Liberal Party is facing questions over its West Australian division preferencing Pauline Hanson’s party ahead of the Nationals, and the possibility of other states and the federal division doing the same.
In 2001, then prime minister John Howard insisted One Nation be preferenced last on Liberal how-to-vote cards in the wake of suggestions of racism.
However, Turnbull told reporters on Monday the minor party – which has three seats in the Senate and is set to have four after a court-ordered recount in WA – deserved respect.
“It is a substantial crossbench party in the Senate and it is taking a policy position on a wide range of issues,” he said.
“It is not a single issue party or a single personality party. We deal with it constructively and respectfully because we respect the fact that each of those One Nation senators has been democratically elected.”
It was a far cry from May last year, when on the election campaign trail Turnbull said Pauline Hanson was “not a welcome presence on the Australian political scene”.
The Queensland Liberal-National Party is considering a deal with One Nation in the wake of a poll showing the minor party could win up to 23 per cent of the primary vote on the back of votes from traditional Liberal and Labor voters.
“That’s a fair swag of voters … we can’t be dismissive of that,” Queensland-based federal minister Steven Ciobo told ABC radio on Monday
That didn’t mean the Coalition should embrace or “cuddle up” to One Nation policies, just as Labor would argue it didn’t adopt all the “kooky” polices of the Greens when it preferenced the minor party.
“What we’ve got to do is make decisions that put us in the best possible position to govern, ideally obviously with the support of the vast majority of people in Queensland,” Ciobo said.
Turnbull said preference decisions were up to individual state Liberal divisions.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott said he would never support preferencing One Nation above the federal Coalition partner, the Nationals.
“I’d certainly be putting One Nation ahead of Labor and I’d be putting the National Party ahead of everyone,” he told 2GB radio.
Victorian Liberal president Michael Kroger said the relationship between the Liberals and Nationals in WA was not as “watertight” as it was in other states.
He didn’t believe the Nationals would be put below One Nation beyond WA.
Treasurer Scott Morrison said Labor should be under fire for preferencing the Greens, as the minor party represented a “clear and present danger” to Australia’s security and prosperity.
Morrison said his focus was on delivering “good government” which would inevitably attract voters’ first preference.
Hanson said her party wanted to work with others in the federal parliament.
“We can actually negotiate on issues, we are not extremist,” she said.
Labor has vowed not to preference One Nation, which among other things advocates a ban on Muslim immigration.
Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the government was ignoring the potential impact on tourists from overseas in its sidling up to One Nation.
“Back when Pauline Hanson and One Nation rose to prominence on the previous occasion, the Coalition government had to engage in a full court press in our region … as a direct result of people hearing the message that Australia wasn’t a welcoming country,” Albanese told reporters in Canberra today.
It was wrong to describe One Nation as “sophisticated” when it advocated a ban on Muslim immigration, denied climate change and advocated higher trade barriers.
“It’s about time Malcolm Turnbull called this out,” Albanese said.
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