The Nationals are directing members to ignore how-to-vote cards and vote below-the-line in the Senate in a spectacular collapse of Coalition unity following Jim Molan's rogue campaign for his own re-election.
In an email to members on Wednesday, the Nationals' NSW state director Ross Cadell and chairman Bede Burke accused Senator Molan and his supporters of breaching the Coalition agreement by campaigning for a "below the line" vote.
This left the junior coalition partner with "no choice but to follow suit", the pair wrote.
"Supporters of Liberal senator Jim Molan have taken it upon themselves to campaign for a 'below the line' vote, which in our view, breaks the Coalition Agreement and seriously harms the chances of a Nationals senator being elected," they said.
"We are not taking this extraordinary step lightly ... this is not something we want to do, but we need every one of our members to vote below the line for Perin Davey and Sam Farraway, and to encourage everyone they know to do the same."
The Coalition is running a joint Senate ticket in NSW, with the Liberals' Hollie Hughes and Andrew Bragg in the top two positions (almost certain to be elected) and the Nationals' Perin Davey in the third spot (far less likely).
Senator Molan was relegated to the unwinnable fourth spot by Liberal preselectors and is running his own unauthorised campaign calling on voters to vote for him below-the-line.
Mr Cadell said the Nationals were primarily responding to Senator Molan's decision to take out advertisements in regional newspapers, directly targeting their voter base. He described Senator Molan's actions as "a bit mean".
"We're disappointed," he said. "We have had a tight Coalition for a long time that has worked very strongly. Jim's an honourable guy, he's done a lot of things in his life well. But at a time when a bit of loyalty and a bit of team spirit [is needed], it's just disappointing."
Mr Cadell said the instructions were only sent to members, and volunteers would still hand out the Coalition's usual how-to-vote cards on polling day.
Senator Molan's campaign is also causing grief in his own party. Liberal MP John Alexander was busted on tape telling a voter how she could ignore the party's orders and vote for Senator Molan below-the-line.
In the audio, a self-proclaimed "new voter" asks how she can vote in the Senate, to which Mr Alexander appears to supply a how-to-vote card and say: "That's how you should vote in the Senate - unless you want to vote for Jim Molan, which you may well, and then you've got to fill out all 12. So you put Jim in front and then you vote like that."
There is also "white hot anger" among Tony Abbott's campaign organisers that supporters of Senator Molan are recruiting volunteers on the northern beaches away from the campaign to re-elect Mr Abbott in Warringah. At least one insider labelled it "sAbbottage".
As The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age revealed on Tuesday, Senator Molan's backers have asked for "hundreds" of volunteers to distribute his how-to-vote cards on polling day.
Senator Molan says he has been "inundated" with support for his campaign, with people "honking their horns and cheering in Parramatta [and] bombarding my office with emails and calls".
He has been contacted for further comment.
- SMH/The Age