Has One Nation's unstoppable, Hanson-fuelled locomotive come off the rails already?
Saturday's state election in Western Australia was meant to be a showcase for the far-right party, proof that their message was resonating on a truly national level, that the party was about more than its fiery and fiery-haired leader Pauline, a launchpad for the so-called "voice of the people" to begin its state-by-state takeover of the entire country.
Instead, far from the predicted 13 percent of the vote, One Nation picked up less than five. The party will not win a single seat in the lower house, and while they are seemingly on track to win a handful in the upper house, it is a far cry from the domination spruiked by One Nation and supporters in recent weeks.
In what will surely rankle Hanson and her federal colleague Malcolm Roberts, One Nation polled even below the Greens.
It is a massive disappointment for a party which, during the last WA election it contested in 2001 gained 9.5 percent of the vote. Just to reiterate, in a year when coverage of the WA election was dominated by One Nation, in which One Nation inked an unprecedented preference deal with a major party in the Liberals, and where the party had three federal senators lending their weight to the push, their vote was half that of when they last contested the state.
The Trump-style revolution has not yet made its way to Australia.
Talk about a flop!
The excuses and finger-pointing and retrospective expectation revision began almost immediately for One Nation. Roberts quickly started tweeting over the weekend about how three seats "was the target" all along (even though he had formerly crowed about polling showing One Nation at 13 percent).
Hanson's Facebook and Twitter pages have been silent on the result, but she has simultaneously blamed both the Liberal and Labor parties for One Nation's electoral fizzer. One Nation's preference deal with the Liberal party was supposed to kick it enough votes to get a few seats, but the deal damaged both parties -- the Liberals were associated with the vaccination-questioning, Putin-loving and Muslim-opposed Hanson, while One Nation's anti-establishment and outsider cloak was torn away when it tied its flag to the mast of a deeply unpopular government.
Hanson quickly got in front of TV cameras on election night and over the weekend, telling everyone that the Liberal deal was a "mistake" and blaming premier Colin Barnett's own unpopularity for her party's result. In a Trump-style move, the party blocked certain journalists from their election night function.
"I don't think it was the Liberal Party, I think it was Colin Barnett. The people here did not want Colin Barnett — he should have stepped aside," Hanson said.
"It's like when you've got milk in your fridge and it's starting to go sour, you throw it out, and that's what they should have done with Colin Barnett."
Leaving aside the fact that a politician who spruiks herself as the 'voice of the nation' should probably have noticed the electoral mood before the election and not after, it smacks of desperation, of blame-shifting. Hanson overshadowed the local WA crew, stamping herself all over the election and relegating the candidates -- the ones whose names were on the ballot, who voters had to know and trust before putting a '1' next to their name on the paper -- to the shadows.
WA voters didn't get enough chance to hear about One Nation's plans for WA because Hanson kept talking. Her controversial comments about Vladimir Putin and vaccinations in that Insiders interview, and the ill-timed revelation that she had promised to direct GST revenue from her home state of QLD to WA (which she swore black and blue she never said, despite a radio interview to the contrary) didn't help, either.
The disaster of the Liberal-One Nation preference deal will give both sides cause for concern, and food for thought regarding any such future arrangements. Both sides suffered, badly, for dealing with the other, and that should give the federal government cause to consider the merits of any such deal on a national level.
Federal Liberal MPs have been quick to come out and criticise the deal and say it should not be repeated -- Barnaby Joyce, Tim Wilson and Ken Wyatt among them -- but Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull did not rule out any future deals when asked about it.
One Nation has been marketed as a runaway train of populism, an unstoppable force giving power back to 'the people'. But in its first real test after the federal poll, in which it gained four Senate seats largely due to the unique rules around rare double dissolution elections which would not be repeated in a normal poll, the wheels fell off.