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Blame game begins over Dutton switch -

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SHANE MCLEOD: Federal politics - and the blame is spreading far and wide after the weekend's failed
seat switch by prominent Opposition frontbencher Peter Dutton.

Mr Dutton had been hoping to stand for the safe Gold Coast seat of McPherson after his northern
Brisbane seat of Dickson was rendered marginally Labor in an electoral redistribution. But
preselectors in the Gold Coast branch of the Liberal-National Party voted him down.

Some Liberals are blaming their Nationals brothers and sisters in the merged party in Queensland.
The Nationals deny it, saying it's a simple case of the local branch opting for an impressive local
candidate.

The World Today's been told Mr Dutton was warned his plan to shift to a safer seat was a risky
strategy.

From Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: The high flying testimonials from John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull and many more
weren't enough to sway local preselectors in the safe Liberal Gold Coast seat of McPherson to
choose Liberal frontbencher and former Howard government minister Peter Dutton to be their next
local member. Mr Dutton lost his bid to switch to a safer seat 75 to 59. For now the member for
Dickson is keeping his own counsel.

Fellow Queensland Liberal frontbencher, Ian Macfarlane, has indicated it wasn't for a lack of
support from his federal colleagues.

IAN MACFARLANE: Well we all strongly endorsed Peter Dutton. The former prime minister John Howard,
the former premier of Queensland Rob Borbidge. Peter had very, very strong support from everyone
who knew him and his colleagues had endorsed him.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Mr Macfarlane told Radio National Breakfast's Fran Kelly the preselectors went for
the local candidate, Karen Andrews.

IAN MACFARLANE: Karen is someone of very considerable ability, quite a diverse background in
business and an engineer to boot and they are always very practical people, can I say Fran, and she
is a great choice. It was extremely unfortunate for Peter Dutton and like Peter, we are
disappointed but there are other options we will pursue. He can't be lost.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Peter Dutton had the backing of his federal Nationals colleagues too. Nationals
Senate leader Barnaby Joyce said he tried to help Mr Dutton as much as he could without imposing
his views too strongly on the locals.

BARNABY JOYCE: But I made a few phone calls and obviously wrote a letter of support.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: One Queensland Liberal has told The World Today the bulk of the preselectors who
were Nationals before the merger with the Liberals all banded together to vote against Mr Dutton -
both those on the executive and branch members.

He concedes, though, that Liberal votes went against Mr Dutton too - that a sizeable block of votes
went to Karen Andrews after Minna Knight was eliminated from the race.

Barnaby Joyce dismisses suggestions that ex-Nationals banded together to vote against Mr Dutton.

BARNABY JOYCE: That story is wrong. That story has about the same credibility as ambit scratching
on the back of public lavatory door and slightly less credibility than the dog ate my homework.
This is just you know, rubbish. It was the view and the wish of the people of the electorate. They
voted for who they wanted.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Fellow Queensland Nationals Senator Ron Boswell says it boils down to the
preselectors opting for the local candidate.

RON BOSWELL: Well, I don't know who supported who but I do know this that both Barnaby Joyce and
myself were supporting Peter Dutton. In fact I asked for a vote as a senator and if that vote had
of been granted which it wasn't, I would have gone down and supported him personally.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: And do you think that would have held much sway with the local members of the LNP
who were formerly Nationals members?

RON BOSWELL: Look, probably if we had of been able to go and vote and speak, we may have been able
to influence some but the fact is, under the new regulations the LNP senators don't get a vote but
I know both Barnaby and myself were trying to influence people to support Peter Dutton because we
thought he had potential to be a very important person in any government that was formed by the
Nationals and the Liberals.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In your view, is there some dysfunctionality in the LNP in Queensland?

RON BOSWELL: Look I don't, look it was a vote. It was a vote. A vote took place. A decision was
taken. I don't think you can reflect on the views of a vote.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: One long-time Liberal insider says it's a case of a big time politician out of
Canberra brow beating locals in the media. He says it was the wrong strategy in a very parochial
seat. Another insider says Mr Dutton was warned by local party members that it was a risky strategy
to shift to the Gold Coast-based seat.

Malcolm Turnbull wants Mr Dutton to remain in federal politics, declaring a seat should be found
for him. Ian Macfarlane says Mr Dutton is a man of extraordinary talent.

IAN MACFARLANE: There are decisions for Peter to make, for his family to make and obviously there
are still vacant seats available and not everyone has yet committed to go around again.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: One option is for Mr Dutton to seek preselect ion for a new federal seat in
south-east Queensland, named after Australian poet and social and environmental activist Judith
Wright.

The Electoral Commission will make a final recommendation on Wright, within a month. The ABC's
electoral analyst Antony Green has assessed Wright would be a marginal Liberal seat with a margin
of 3.8 per cent.

That's an easier prospect than trying to defend his own seat of Dickson which after the
redistribution has become notionally Labor by 1.3 per cent.

SHANE MCLEOD: Alexandra Kirk.