Preference blow to Nationals

Ballot blow: Labor to direct preference away from the Nationals. Picture: Getty Images

The WA Nationals' aspirations of repeating or even eclipsing its historic 2010 Federal election performance have been dealt a body blow, with Labor deciding last night to direct preferences to the Liberal Party in the rural conservatives' two most winnable seats.

Labor State secretary Simon Mead revealed last night the party would put the Liberals ahead of the Nationals on how-to-vote cards in O'Connor and Durack.

Tony Crook became the party's first WA member of the House of Representatives in 34 years when he won on Labor preferences over Liberal warhorse Wilson Tuckey in O'Connor at the last election.

Mr Crook won just 29 per cent of the primary vote compared with Mr Tuckey's 38 per cent but Labor's 17 per cent primary vote flowed heavily to the Nationals.

Mr Crook retired after one term and the Nationals have preselected geologist and mining executive William "Chub" Witham against the Liberal candidate, Katanning farmer Rick Wilson.

In Durack, where Liberal incumbent Barry Haase is retiring, the Nationals' Shane Van Styn, a Geraldton businessman and councillor, is up against Liberal Melissa Price, a lawyer and businesswoman.

"Our view is that the National and Liberal parties are all the same and there is absolutely no difference," Mr Mead said.

The Nationals have been talking up their chances of winning three seats in the Parliament - O'Connor, Durack and a Senate spot, where former footballer David Wirrpanda tops the ticket.

Labor will put the Nationals above the Liberals in Pearce, where Liberal Christian Porter is the unbackable favourite, and in the Senate race.

Nationals WA president Colin de Grussa denied the decision hurt the party's chances and said voters would make up their own minds.

"Clearly the Labor Party would rather see Tony Abbott get in and regional WA lose its voice," Mr de Grussa said. "But at the same time we saw this only a few months ago in the State election. They tried the same plan there and it failed miserably."