Prime Minister Scott Morrison has repeatedly refused to offer a decisive opinion on the issue.
Even yesterday, when Mr Morrison blasted One Nation over the “abhorrent” revelation about its interactions with the American gun lobby, he would not commit to preferencing the beleaguered party last.
He repeated his argument that preferences are a matter for the Liberal Party’s state divisions, and should be determined once all candidates have been nominated.
“Frankly, there are many candidates who should go last. And you won’t know all those names and all those parties until nominations close,” he said.
“Tell me this. If Fraser Anning ran as a candidate in Queensland, in every single seat, who do you put last?
“There are plenty of extreme views out there, and those extreme views, which are dangerous to Australia, are not hostage to the left or the right of Australian politics.”
That last line could reinforce the opinion of several Coalition MPs who have publicly said the Greens are worse than One Nation.
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On ABC radio this morning, the LNP’s Keith Pitt called the Greens “the most dangerous group in this country”.
“They should be on the bottom of any ticket we put up,” Mr Pitt said.
His colleagues Scott Buchholz, Llew O’Brien and Ian Macdonald all said they wanted to preference the Greens last week.
Ken O’Dowd went even further, saying he wanted to see One Nation “well above the Greens and Labor”.
Human Services Minister Michael Keenan didn’t offer an opinion on preferences, but did say the Greens were “more dangerous” than One Nation.
“The Greens, I think, are more dangerous than One Nation in many ways,” he said.
“They would close down whole sections of the Australian economy. They are very, very dangerous people in their ideology.”
It’s an opinion shared by many in the Coalition, including a former prime minister.
Speaking at the launch of Pauline Hanson’s book last year, Tony Abbott said he would “certainly” preference One Nation ahead of both Labor and The Greens.
“I’m only going to state general principles, because in the end preference decisions are quite rightly a matter for the party, but I think that you should preference in the order of people’s capacity to make a constructive contribution to our national life,” Mr Abbott said.
“And based on the current record, I would put the Greens last. I would put Labor second-last. Then I would put constructive independents and minor parties. And then I would put the Coalition and its allies first.
“I would certainly put One Nation above Labor and the Greens, because let’s face it, we have been able to work constructively in the Senate with One Nation.
“We would not have been able to pass any legislation in this current parliament but for the constructive work of Pauline Hanson and her team of senators. And I think it’s only right and proper that good and constructive conduct should be rewarded.”
.@TonyAbbottMHR: I would certainly preference @OneNationAus above @AustralianLabor and The @Greens, the fact is we would not have been able to pass any legislation in this parliament if not for the constructive work of @PaulineHansonOz.
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 27, 2018
Other Coalition figure have warned against preferencing One Nation.
“It is always difficult to sift in the sewer between the extremist parties of the Greens and One nation, but I have a longstanding view that we should put One Nation and their despicable acolytes last,” said Tim Wilson.
Craig Laundy, who is retiring at the election, said he “wouldn’t be keen to see One Nation supported in any way”.
The debate over preferences was a problem for Mr Morrison even before yesterday’s story about Ms Hanson’s chief of staff James Ashby and One Nation’s Queensland leader Steve Dickson meeting with America’s National Rifle Association.
One Nation’s record on Islam had come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack — including Ms Hanson’s infamous comment that Islam was a “disease” Australia needed to be “vaccinated” against.
Barnaby Joyce once described that remark as “bat poo crazy”.
Mr Morrison sparred with The Project host Waleed Aly during their interview on Thursday night, as Aly told the Prime Minister it would be a “strong act of leadership” to preference One Nation last.
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“We’re not going to do any preference deals with One Nation,” Mr Morrison said.
“Not a deal. Will you, on your how-to-vote cards, be putting One Nation last?” Aly asked.
“Well those matters are determined by the party when we know what the nominations are,” Mr Morrison replied.
Aly repeatedly pushed the Prime Minister on the matter, often interrupting him, and Mr Morrison became visibly frustrated.
“Do you think, particularly in the circumstances that we face right now, that the Liberal Party and the National Party, where relevant, should be preferencing One Nation below Labor and The Greens?” Aly pressed.
Mr Morrison said he respected the party process and would “make that decision at the time of the nominations closing”.
Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly face off on The Project2:01
Scott Morrison and Waleed Aly go head-to-head tonight on The Project after a feud over the PM’s reported remarks on Muslims
Yesterday, Mr Morrison again ruled out a preference deal with One Nation as he slammed Mr Ashby and Mr Dickson’s conduct.
“There are many reasons not to vote for One Nation. It’s a long list,” Mr Morrison said. “Today we saw further evidence of that.
“One Nation officials have basically sought to sell Australia’s gun laws to the highest bidders, to a foreign buyer. And I find that abhorrent.”
He urged “good Australians” who had voted for One Nation in the past, or were considering voting for it this time, to instead support a “party of government” which could deliver on the issues that mattered to them.
“I’m not interested in getting One Nation’s preferences. I’m interested in getting their primary vote,” he said.