Palmer’s millions: Can he swing ballot?

 

Any hopes Clive Palmer had of repeating his so-called 2019 federal election "success" in this month's Queensland election have long been dashed, according to a leading political commentator.

Mr Palmer, who founded the United Australia Party, formerly known as Palmer United Party, is estimated to have spent at least $60 million on campaigning in the lead-up to the Morrison Government's victory in 2019, claiming Labor leader Bill Shorten's loss as his own success.

Now, in Queensland, Mr Palmer wants Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk out and LNP leader Deb Frecklington to win on October 31, and seems to be throwing everything he can to oust Labor, entering family members and former employees as candidates for his party in 55 electorates.

Clive Palmer’s wife Anna is contesting the seat of Currumbin for the United Australia Party on October 31. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen
Clive Palmer’s wife Anna is contesting the seat of Currumbin for the United Australia Party on October 31. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen

 

UAP leader Greg Dowling said the aim of the candidates was to "shake up the two-party duopoly and deliver a new deal for the state that brings economic prosperity for the long-term benefit of all Queenslanders."

"The current government is out of ideas, it doesn't listen, it's not interested in big projects," Mr Dowling said.

However, political scientist and senior lecturer at Griffith University Paul Williams said it was unlikely Mr Palmer's campaign would prove fruitful, ruling out any chance of "replicating the Palmer effect of 2019."

In last year's federal election, Palmer's UAP failed to pick up any seats, doing its best in the seat of Herbert, in Townsville, where the party scored 5.7 per cent of the vote.

In that case, candidate Greg Dowling was the third excluded from the count and 60 per cent of his votes went straight to Katter and Hanson parties through preferences in favour of the major parties.

Preferences will prove all important in the state election and any votes UAP receives in any of the 55 electorates it is contesting could make the difference between an LNP or Labor candidate win.

Griffith University’s senior lecturer in politics Dr Paul Williams said it was unlikely Clive Palmer would benefit greatly in the Queensland election.
Griffith University’s senior lecturer in politics Dr Paul Williams said it was unlikely Clive Palmer would benefit greatly in the Queensland election.

 

"There was a lot of exaggeration in the commentary around Palmer's influence in 2019 - I don't think he was as influential as we assume," Dr Williams said.

"His influence runs a poor third in terms of distribution of preferences to where Hanson and Katter's preferences are going.

"Given that campaign was a failure, he didn't win a seat anywhere, his vote will be on the decline."

The second bar to the Palmer party's election bid could be the legislative change ensuring candidates are capped at $90,000 spending per seat.

In June 2020, the Queensland parliament passed a bill to reform election financing, by imposing caps on donations and election spending.

Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath at the time said the bill was "historic and nation-leading.

"My hope is that it will lead to politics being a battle of ideas, rather than a battle of bank balances," Ms D'Ath said.

The caps came into effect in August, set at $57,000 for candidates endorsed by a political party, or $87,000 if independent, in addition to a cap on political parties of $92,000 per seat.

Third-party organisations including unions, political action groups such as GetUp and industry bodies have an overall cap of $1 million.

"At best, if Palmer ran for every seat, which he isn't, he'd only be able to spend $30m tops. That's just not going to have the same effect as in 2019 where he spent more than $60m," Dr Williams said.

"We're not going to be bombarded with television, radio and print ads. We'll see some cheap, inexpensive ones online."

Clive Palmer's United Australia Party's most recent double page ad spread in the Courier Mail on Monday, October 19.
Clive Palmer's United Australia Party's most recent double page ad spread in the Courier Mail on Monday, October 19.

 

Most recently, he took out a double page spread in the Monday October 19 edition of the Courier Mail, where he once again smeared Labor and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

"If she doesn't make the decisions she shouldn't be in the position," one page of the ad read.

On the opposite page, "don't risk a Labor death tax."

"A death tax could be Labor's plan," the ad continued.

It comes after Labor complained to Twitter and Facebook about a video featuring Mr Palmer's wife Anna Palmer, who is running for the UAP in the seat of Currumbin, claiming the Palaszczuk government would adopt a "20 per cent death tax."

Ms Palaszczuk said it was "absolutely ridiculous."

"It is definitely not true and I find it absolutely offensive that he would be doing this in the midst of an election campaign," she said.

"What Clive Palmer is doing is irresponsible, it is wrong, and it is dishonest."

Clive Palmer’s election spending has been capped after the Queensland government introduced legislative change. Picture: Evan Morgan
Clive Palmer’s election spending has been capped after the Queensland government introduced legislative change. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

Tweeting later on Monday, UAP said Labor had "made a complaint to social media platforms to "gag" deputy leader Anna Palmer.

Deputy premier Steven Miles on Monday said: "We asked them to remove your untruthful ads. Which you did. Your new ads might be tricky, the word could is tricky, but they still aren't true.

"I mean, I could say that Deb Frecklington is a Russian sleeper agent. But she's not and I won't say that," Mr Miles told reporters on Monday.

"But this is what Clive is doing with his ads, these are just more LNP lies and Deb Frecklington has to distance herself from them."

Mr Miles said Ms Frecklington needed to denounce Mr Palmer and rule out doing any deals with the mining mogul.

"Deb Frecklington has to break up with Clive, has to distance herself from him," Mr Miles said.

"The LNP knows the best strategy is to benefit from lies … to have Clive spend money to buy the premiership for the LNP.

"Palmer's party is just the LNP in yellow."

In tweets, Mr Miles told Mr Palmer he "should not be allowed to buy Deb Frecklington's way in to office."

"It's time for her to show she's a leader and call you out … if she doesn't, she's not fit to lead Queensland."

Originally published as Palmer's millions: Can he swing ballot?


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