“My clear view – and I’ve stated it to union leaders – is yes, I know that traditionally you say put the LNP last. But I think One Nation’s performance in recent times and that of [senator] Fraser Anning [mean] I think they have to be put last,” Mr Shorten told reporters.
“I will say this again – I would rather see Labor’s preferences go to the LNP first rather than to the One Nation party.
“And that mightn’t always be in my interests. And maybe One Nation, the political leadership, will seek to punish me for this. Well, I’ll have to put up with that.
“Because at the end of the day, I’m a student of history. When you allow the extremists in the room, when you tolerate the hate speech, when you turn a blind eye to that … selling-out of Australia, then you’re not upholding the standards. You’re actually part of the problem.”
Ms McManus was quoted by The Australian last week saying that while “far-right, fringe-dwelling extremists” should be “at the bottom of every ballot paper”, the seats in which unions were campaigning were realistically a battle between the Coalition and Labor.
Liberal MP Tim Wilson said if Mr Shorten was serious about repudiating the ACTU’s position he should refuse its financial and logistical support.
“If he feels that seriously about it it’s time to stump up,” Mr Wilson told Sky News.
The Coalition is also struggling to reach a consensus on how to handle One Nation at the upcoming election. Several Coalition MPs argue the party should be preferenced higher than Labor or the Greens, while others advocate it should be denied any preferences at all.
Liberal National MP Keith Pitt, who holds the Queensland seat of Hinkler, said the Greens should be placed ahead of One Nation.
“The Greens are the most dangerous group of individuals in this country in terms of our nation moving forward,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday. “In my view they should be at the bottom of any ticket that we put up.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pleaded with One Nation supporters to back the Coalition instead, arguing the minor party can never be in government and has no serious policies to address voters’ grievances about immigration, overpopulation, jobs or the drought.
Mr Morrison said decisions about preferences in individual seats would be made at a state level once nominations have closed.
The recommendations on political parties’ how-to-vote cards are only suggestions and each voter ultimately has control over the order in which they allocate their preferences.
Senator Hanson declined an interview on Wednesday but was still ill after sustaining a tick bite. She said she would respond to the Al Jazeera revelations in detail on Thursday.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.