Low turnout fear for  Libs, Labor
Running mates: Labor's Joe Bullock and Louise Pratt. Picture: Megan Powell/The West Australian

The Liberal and Labor parties enter today's WA Senate election nervous that they will lose one of their number amid expectation of a low voter turnout.

The Liberal Party won three WA Senate seats in September's Federal election but its third candidate Linda Reynolds will probably rely on favourable preference flow to stop Palmer United Party pinching her spot.

Labor, which has experienced dangerous late turbulence in its campaign caused by the words and deeds of its number one candidate Joe Bullock, also fears a backlash.

But it would not be the arch-conservative union boss who would suffer from any anti-ALP sentiment.

As most people vote above the line, sitting senator Louise Pratt would cop the brunt of any dissatisfaction with Mr Bullock because she was relegated to second spot on the ALP ticket during a bitter preselection process last year.

Audio of a speech Mr Bullock gave in November to a Christian group surfaced yesterday in which he admitted he had voted against Labor and that the ALP had not demonstrated it could be trusted.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, a one-time friend of Mr Bullock at Sydney University, said the comments proved there was "division and dysfunction" at the heart of the WA Labor Senate team.

But Mr Bullock yesterday dismissed suggestions his past antics could cost a sitting Labor senator her job.

"I am absolutely confident (Senator Pratt) will take her spot," he said.

Labor MPs yesterday defended Mr Bullock, saying he had devoted his life to the service of working people, but privately the party is fuming that their lead candidate had views unreflective of the broader membership.

Frontbencher Jason Clare said WA voters should use the election to cast judgment on Mr Abbott.

"He came to office promising to cut the debt and cut the deficit," he said. "He promised he wouldn't cut money for schools but he has, he said he wouldn't cut money from hospitals but he has, and he didn't say anything about these weird old medieval ideas about bringing back knights and dames."

The betting markets favour the Liberal Party winning three seats, Labor two and the Greens one.

But Clive Palmer's multimillion-dollar advertising blitz has deeply unnerved the Liberal Party, which is expecting its primary vote to fall.

And Nationals deputy leader Barnaby Joyce also expressed frustration that Mr Palmer's campaign had overshadowed the Nationals' attempt to present itself as the alternative choice for conservative voters in WA.

"Clive Palmer appears to be the Phil Spector of politics creating the wall of noise and I am trying to get the National Party piccolo heard over this cacophony of craziness," he said.

Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop has promised the Abbott Government will shake up the Australian Electoral Commission in the wake of its WA Senate ballot bungles.

Fresh scorn has been heaped on the AEC this week after _The West Australian _revealed 75 nursing home residents were forced to vote again after a mobile polling team used an unsecure ballot box for their original ballot papers.

Ms Bishop said a joint parliamentary inquiry would look at changes to the electoral system.

The West Australian

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