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One question that will define Palmer's campaign - and possibly decide the election

Politics

One big question sits unanswered after Clive Palmer’s unsurprising hat-in-the-ring Senate call. It will make an already fascinating election more compelling but that big unknown could influence some key contests, writes Dennis Atkins

 

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Here’s the big unknown causing plenty of chatter, anxiety and sleep deprivation among political candidates and operatives in Queensland.

Will Clive Palmer settle his cashed-up advertising and persuasion weight on an anti-Labor message as he did in 2019 when he was on a mission to stop Bill Shorten from becoming prime minister?

Or will he be an equal opportunity party pooper, as he was in the 2015 Queensland state election, and wish a pox on everyone’s political house?

In 2019 he was wildly successful, spending $83 million, heavily skewed to the Queensland market. He didn’t win any House or Senate seats but he brutally surpassed the ALP vote, putting a slew of targeted marginal seats out of reach for Shorten’s team.

At that election Labor managed just 26.7 percent of the primary vote (against an LNP vote not far off 50 percent) which was the worst result since the 1975 wipeout when just one ALP member was returned.

Also, Labor couldn’t gather enough votes to send more than one senator to Canberra, a rare and embarrassing outcome.

In 2015, angered by what he regarded as not enough deference from then LNP Premier Campbell Newman and a party that wouldn’t jump at his command, Palmer directed preferences away from sitting members.

Given the LNP had more than four in five MPs in the state parliament, this was a body blow to Newman’s chances of re-election (something already harmed by see-from-space arrogance).

It might have been a kick aimed at the shins but it connected higher up and Newman was gone, Annastacia Palaszczuk was Premier and the rest is history.

At the moment, Palmer looks like he’s going to again rain on everyone’s parade – his ads have a sign off saying you can never trust “Labor, Liberal or the Greens”. He also ran ads this week which were aimed directly at Scott Morrison and his accepted weaknesses.

“Scotty From Marketing” the big headline read with the next powerful sentences stating simply “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”.

It was a surgical hit delivered with damaging precision.

Clive Palmer’s latest advertisement targeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Image: Supplied

Against this unknown background, Palmer’s candidacy for the senate is one more fascinating move.

He did run for the senate in 2019 although he was hardly serious and his support was never going to give him the votes needed to pull it off.

This time he has a much better chance.

He will get closer to the 14.3 percent quota needed and in doing so will mess up the race for the last spot in the centre right column – already a crowded and competitive field.

As well as Palmer, there’s One Nation’s Pauline Hanson, the Liberal Democrats’ Campbell Newman and the LNP’s Amanda Stoker, a junior minister who jumped into the Senate after George Brandis jetted off to London for a diplomatic job.

Out of this political psycho-drama, the most immediate casualty will probably be the man he stood with late last year declaring an “electoral pact”.

Palmer stood up with his old foe Campbell Newman, they appeared to make nice and said they’d swap preferences. Newman must be looking at Palmer’s latest announcement and wondering what all that was about.

Palmer’s voter support will be boosted by the big bucks advertising that’s been relentless throughout the summer months and, according to the businessman, will really kick into gear next month.

Palmer is going to sail past that $83 million, finishing up with a spend well in excess of $100 million, smashing his own record vote buying spree. It will be aimed at harvesting the angry, surly vote – a tactic usually poisonous for an incumbent. This is bad for Morrison.

In the local Senate race, Newman will be pushed to the sidelines along with the LNP’s number three candidate hopeful and junior minister Amanda Stoker.

The real contest for the last spot on the centre right will probably come down to a battle royal between Palmer and One Nation’s Hanson.

If Palmer spoils Stoker’s ambition to be elected to the Senate, he will be visiting a greater world of pain on Morrison and the LNP than just pushing his electoral weight around in the House.

Even if Morrison wins in the House, Palmer in the Senate will be one more daily headache.

If Palmer finishes at the top of the group of candidates vying for the last spot, he should easily pick up enough votes flowing through the system to get over the finish line.

On the centre left, Labor’s number three – social services worker Edwina Andrew from regional Queensland – will probably fall short while the Greens Party’s Penny Allman-Payne, a teacher and unionist from Gladstone, could join Larissa Waters in the Senate. This would make history for the minor party.

 

 

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