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Preference deals rarely end well

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05.05.2019

In an election campaign that is as squalid as it is dispiriting, the Liberal Party's decision to give its preferences to Clive Palmer's United Australia Party plumbs the depths.

Liberal operatives tell you that “Clive is not as bad as Pauline and certainly better than the Greens’’.Credit:Lee Besford

Liberal operatives tell you that "Clive is not as bad as Pauline and certainly better than the Greens", as if this alone justifies getting into bed with an individual who is being pursued by the Commonwealth on various fronts.

Comparing Clive Palmer favourably with Pauline Hanson, and unfavourably with the Greens, whatever that means, as justification for a preference arrangement tells you more than you need to know about the extent to which the country's political culture has been debased.

Liberal spokesman Simon Birmingham says this arrangement is "sub-optimal". That's one way of putting it.

History tells us that political parties entering into preference arrangements with wildcard players do so at their own peril. Perhaps the best illustration of this is the Queensland state election of 1998 when the National and Liberal parties preferenced Pauline Hanson.

One Nation garnered 23 per cent of the primary vote, won 11 seats in the unicameral Queensland parliament, split the conservative vote and enabled Peter Beattie to form a government.

Two decades later Hanson remains a factor in Australian politics despite her party's self-destructive tendencies. Back in 1996, John Howard........

© The Age