Labor preferences Liberals over Nationals in O'Connor

Labor's Shelley Payne, The Nationals' John Hassell and Liberal MP Rick Wilson are all running for the seat of O'Connor in the May 18, federal election. Photos: Jake Dietsch and Supplied.
Labor's Shelley Payne, The Nationals' John Hassell and Liberal MP Rick Wilson are all running for the seat of O'Connor in the May 18, federal election. Photos: Jake Dietsch and Supplied.

The Labor Party has decided to direct preferences to the Liberals over the Nationals in the seat of O'Connor, after the Nationals placed One Nation above Labor on their how-to-vote cards.

Labor had originally placed the Nationals above the Liberals on pre-polling cards, but reversed the decision after the Nationals placed One Nation's Dean Smith in the seventh spot, with Labor's Shelley Payne in eighth out of the nine candidates.

Labor's move could ensure Liberal incumbent Rick Wilson is elected to a third term.

Labor preferences were crucial to Nationals candidate Tony Crook in 2010 when he won the seat from the Liberals despite receiving fewer primary votes.

WA Labor MLC for the Agricultural Region Darren West described the Nationals' decision to preference One Nation over Labor as "deplorable".

"As a consequence of that, Labor will change their how-to-vote card and will no longer be directing preferences to the National Party, because we just couldn't do that on principle and we'll now be directing preferences to the Liberals," he said.

Mr West said Labor's first run of pre-polling how-to-vote cards were printed directing preferences towards the Nationals, but how-to-vote cards on polling day would be changed.

"Should John Hassell have been able to accrue enough primary votes, Labor preferences could have helped him. But I think without Labor preferences, the Nationals now have no chance of securing O'Connor," he said.

Nationals candidate John Hassell said the order of preferences was not his decision, but he described Labor's decision as "petty".

"It won't affect my campaign. It might affect the outcome a bit, but the preferences are the domain of the voter not of the party," Mr Hassell said.

"The voter can vote whichever way they like."

Before the May 18, 2019 election, One Nation had not run a candidate in O'Connor since 2007, when the party secured just 1.6 per cent of the primary vote. Although One Nation is not considered a chance of winning the seat, Mr West said the decision was a matter of "principle".

Mr Hassell rejected the notion that Labor was making a 'principled' stand.

"I find the Labor party doing anything on a principled basis to be a bit of a joke, actually," he said.

"While some people in One Nation have done some stupid things, and we all make mistakes sadly, I don't think that tars every single one of them with the same brush.

"I'm just going to get on with the job, keep doing what I'm doing and showing the electors of O'Connor that a change is absolutely important."

This story Reversal of preferences first appeared on The Esperance Express.