Scott Morrison has committed to preference One Nation below Labor. Picture: AAP
Scott Morrison has committed to preference One Nation below Labor. Picture: AAP

PM’s sudden One Nation backflip

PRIME Minister Scott Morrison has relented and committed to preference One Nation below Labor at the election.

Mr Morrison said he had been swayed by undercover footage of Pauline Hanson, in which she appeared to suggest the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre was a government conspiracy.

The Prime Minister had previously ruled out a preference deal with One Nation, but spent the last week insisting the decision of whether to preference the minor party last, or even below Labor and the Greens, should be left to the Liberal Party's state divisions.

Speaking this morning, Mr Morrison said he had been in touch directly with the party organisation and recommended One Nation be preferenced below Labor.

"My recommendation to them, which they are accepting, is that One Nation will be put below the Labor Party at the next election," he said.

Mr Morrison said it was a decision he had "not come to lightly", and he had based it on his "strong view about the sanctity of Australia's gun laws".

"It's been several days now and the actions of those One Nation officials, these further revelations from these tapes - I know there is some commentary about the nature of that investigation, I'm not going to engage in commentary on that," he said.

"The comments particularly last night and the linkages to Port Arthur, I was shocked by them.

"These gun laws have kept Australia safe for 20 years and have led the world. They are one of the Liberal Party's proudest achievements."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP/Darren England
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: AAP/Darren England

Mr Morrison did not commit to preference One Nation below the Greens, and said that question would still be settled after nominations close.

"There are a lot of parties that have a lot of extreme positions," the Prime Minister said.

"Frankly, I've always found the Greens to be a very serious danger to Australia.

"If the Labor Party wants to create some equivalence between the Labor Party and the Greens, that's up to the Labor Party."

The debate over preferences was a problem for Mr Morrison even before this week'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.

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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".

But multiple Coalition MPs have publicly suggested the Greens are a more dangerous party than One Nation.

Yesterday 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.

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."

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson. Picture: AP
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson. Picture: AP

It's an opinion shared by many in the Coalition, including a former prime minister.

Speaking at the launch of Ms 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."

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 preference issue blew up after Morrison sparred with The Project host Waleed Aly during their interview last Thursday night.

Aly told the Prime Minister it would be a "strong act of leadership" to preference One Nation last.

"We're not going to do any preference deals with One Nation," Mr Morrison said at the time.

"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".

Greens leader Richard Di Natale. Picture: AAP
Greens leader Richard Di Natale. Picture: AAP