Western Australian MP Andrew Hastie has issued a warning to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, putting him on notice that Liberal members of parliament would demand consultation on any negotiations with independents to form a minority government.
He also rebuked the Coalition’s national campaign team, accusing them of being disconnected with everyday Australians and his electorate.
Mr Hastie, who on Saturday improved on the vote he collected in last year’s Canning byelection, said he was concerned backbenchers could be left out of the loop if the Coalition attempted to form a minority government.
“The people of Canning have elected me as their member of parliament and we should have a voice inside the party room,” he said.
“If we're going to go negotiate with the independents, then I have to represent the people who elected me, so my voice has to be heard.”
He said a Liberal party room meeting should be called.
Mr Hastie said the national campaign did not resonate with voters and was disconnected from much of the country.
Look, I can't speak for Mark Textor, but I'd love to ask him if he's ever been to Canning and spoken to one of my electors...Andrew Hastie
He said he threw aside the national campaign’s talking points when a father “asked me directly why our plan would benefit the future of his five children”.
“I struggled to answer,” Mr Hastie said.
“It was at that point I realised that a lot of what we were campaigning on nationally just wasn't resonating with everyday Australians.
“He couldn't understand the reason for company tax cuts, he wasn't earning enough to benefit from the increased tax thresholds and he wasn't an innovator – he was just an everyday Australian who was trying to pay down his mortgage and look after his children and ensure they had a brighter future.”
Mr Turnbull’s campaign narrative of innovation did not strike a chord in the electorate, he said.
“A lot of Canning's strengths lie in agribusiness, lie in farming, lie in the retail sector, in construction and people said to me ‘hey, we've been trying to innovate for years but there's a lot of red tape – I don't understand how this relates to what we're trying to achieve’.
“Canning isn't going to be the next Silicon Valley, but we have some incredible opportunities in agribusiness that we can take hold of.”
He said the rise of One Nation and South Australian senator Nick Xenophon’s party showed many Australians had deserted the major parties and the Liberal base had registered a protest vote.
“Generally speaking, there was a disconnect, there was a disconnect with everyday Australians who might vote Labor or might vote Coalition depending on the merits of the policy and then there were Liberal rank and file people, and I had pushback from both of those groups,” he said.
“I had a lot of kick-back on super, I had a lot of kick-back on the branding – rank and file Liberal people are very proud of the Liberal logo and they didn't like the change.”
Liberal party strategist Mark Textor, who last year said conservative voters “don’t matter”, drew criticism from Mr Hastie.
“Look, I can't speak for Mark Textor, but I'd love to ask him if he's ever been to Canning and spoken to one of my electors because certainly there was a disconnect between the campaign nationally and what I did on the ground and I essentially ran my own show,” he said.
“I did the political field work – I went out and knocked doors and spoke to as many people as I could and the more I did that the more of a disconnect I sensed between the voters and what we were campaigning on.”
Mr Hastie agreed the change in leadership from Mr Abbott to Mr Turnbull had an impact on the vote.
“Of course it had an impact, but even now, be in no doubt I am loyal to the leadership of my party, I'm loyal to the Prime Minister,” he said.
“A Turnbull Coalition government is infinitely better than a Shorten-led union government and so this is about the future of this country.”
Mr Hastie said West Australian Liberals such as Christian Porter could help reconnect the party with everyday voters.
“I think Porter’s a good bloke, he has a seat that mirror's Canning in many ways and he's a bright light for the WA Liberal party.”