Liberals have intensified their election attacks on Clive Palmer as fears grow the party could lose its third seat at the April 5 poll.
Lead Liberal Senate candidate David Johnston yesterday warned a vote for the Palmer United Party could get Queensland-based James Moylan of Help End Marijuana Prohibition elected thanks to "dodgy preference" deals among minor parties.
The Liberals have also stepped up their personal criticism of the high-profile businessman and MP in recent days on the internet, accusing him of misleading voters and not being trusted to hold the Senate balance of power.
But Mr Palmer hit back, branding the Liberals "intellectual pygmies" for trying to distract voters from the Abbott Government's failure to give WA a better return on GST payments.
The slanging match comes after an opinion poll showing PUP's primary support has hit 10.5 per cent, double what it achieved at last year's election.
PUP is expected to joust with the Liberals' third candidate Linda Reynolds for a seat, though senior Liberals worry PUP will fall short of a quota and its preferences will get the HEMP party elected at Ms Reynolds' expense.
Senator Johnston said despite campaigning on getting rid of the carbon and mining taxes, Mr Palmer had passed up chances to vote them down.
By preferencing HEMP seventh out of 33 parties, Mr Palmer was not acting in the interests of WA, he said.
The Liberals have also published a series of internet memes designed to be shared online among voters attacking PUP.
One questions how PUP can be trusted with the balance of power because Mr Palmer has failed to pay a $5300 bill to a race club that hosted a "calamari and chips" event for the party.
Another points out Mr Palmer refused to vote for the abolition of the carbon tax in the Lower House last year.
Mr Palmer told _The West Australian _ it was ridiculous to suggest a vote for PUP was a vote for the HEMP party.
He claimed the Liberals were also preferencing the HEMP party. The Liberals' group voting ticket shows PUP's Dio Wang is the Liberals' 19th preference, while HEMP's James Moylan is 64th of 77 candidates.
Mr Palmer insisted he supported the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes and called the Liberal Party attack on him over not paying the bill a "beat up".
"I'm a billionaire, I can pay any debt," he said.
"They are misleading the voters by raising these trivial issues. They're intellectual pygmies." Mr Palmer absented himself from voting on the carbon tax repeal last year claiming he had a personal conflict of interests because one of his companies owed money under the tax, which he is challenging in court.
Mr Moylan said he was "rolling on the floor laughing" about the attention the Liberal Party had drawn to him and his party.