Restoring confidence in public statements by independently testing and verifying the facts
Could the Liberals lose a significant number of seats because of any deal with Clive Palmer on preferences?
By Tiffanie Turnbull, James Lane and Louise Evans
"While a couple of seats might be saved, a number, significantly more, could be lost simply because of this."
Former Western Australian Liberal premier Colin Barnett. April 26, 2019.
Former Western Australia Liberal premier Colin Barnett is warning Prime Minister Scott Morrison against a preference deal with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party, because it could polarise voters and damage the Liberals. 
Mr Barnett told AAP FactCheck his party’s preference deal with One Nation “blindsided” him and ruined the 2017 WA election campaign, which he lost after eight-and-a-half years as premier.
AAP FactCheck investigated his claims the Liberals’ proposed preference deal with the United Australia Party could cost the party a significant number of metropolitan seats.
Mr Barnett urged the Liberal Party to learn from his 2017 landslide election defeat - the largest defeat of a sitting government in WA’s history - following the party’s controversial preference deal with One Nation. 
“It (the preference deal) derailed the campaign,” Mr Barnett told AAP FactCheck.
The preference deal signalled One Nation was no longer a political pariah. Former Liberal prime minister John Howard defended the 2017 deal with One Nation saying “everyone changes in 16 years”. Liberal senator Arthur Sinodinos argued One Nation was “a lot more sophisticated”. 
ABC election analyst Antony Green told AAP FactCheck he agrees with Mr Barnett’s claim that any preference deal would be a distraction, but disagreed it would lose seats.
Mr Green said while the 2017 One Nation preference deal "didn’t help" the Liberals in WA, they were going to lose office in 2017 anyway.
Mr Green also predicts the effect of any Liberal/United Australia Party preference deal on federal lower house seats in the 2019 election would be “neutral”.
“When it comes down to it, the preference deal with Clive Palmer, does it make it more or less likely they’re going to hold on to seats? I don’t think it makes any difference.”
“They’re not going to lose any seats because of the United Australia Party. They’ll lose seats because their vote has fallen since the last election,” Mr Green told AAP FactCheck.
Mr Green told ABC TV that preferences rarely change the result, especially for the coalition.
“In the last three decades, Labor has won 86 seats on preferences after trailing on first preferences. The coalition has won two,” Mr Green told ABC TV.
“The coalition for three decades has not been able to win seats on preferences.”
He also said the impact of any Palmer party preference deal would be dependent on voters receiving and following “how-to-vote cards”.
“If the United Australia Party doesn't put a how-to-vote cards in the hand of every voter then it is irrelevant, because people won't follow a card they haven't received.”
Mr Green told AAP FactCheck he agrees any Palmer deal would make “day-to-day campaigning more difficult”, but said the United Australia Party’s brand isn’t as controversial as One Nation’s.
“A lot of middle-ground, migrant-background voters just don’t like One Nation but I think Clive Palmer’s party they’re very neutral about. They don’t have any huge antipathy towards the United Australia Party.”
According to leading election analyst Mr Green, Mr Barnett’s claims are mostly false because while a Palmer preferences deal could hinder the Liberals, historically preferences don’t win or lose seats for the coalition.
- Mostly False - Mostly false, with one minor element of truth.
1. ‘Liberal preference deal with Clive Palmer's party could spell trouble, former WA premier warns’, by Andrew Probyn and Stephanie Borys. ABC. April 26, 2019: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-04-26/federal-election-liberals-palmer-deal-troubling-says-barnett/11047086
2. ‘The Role of One-Vote One-Value Electoral Reforms in Labor's Record WA Victory’, by Antony Green. ABC. March 20, 2018: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-16/the-role-of-one-vote-one-value-electoral-reforms-in-labors-recor/9388886
3. ‘One Nation’s preference deal in the WA election comes back to bite it’, by Narelle Miragliotta. The Conversation. March 13, 2017: https://theconversation.com/one-nations-preference-deal-in-the-wa-election-comes-back-to-bite-it-74232
- First published April 26, 2019 16:55 AEST