As the campaign has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that Mr Clive Palmer and the United Australia Party may be playing a bigger role in the election than initially predicted.
Last week, the Queensland Senate candidate announced that, over three years since the scandal engulfing him in relation to Queensland Nickel, he would pay out the $7 million in entitlements that he owned to employees of the now-liquidated company.
The billionaire businessman has spent a record $33.7 million since September 2018 on campaign advertising across commercial TV, radio and print and billboards, significantly more than the Coalition’s $6.16 million and the ALP’s $6.29 million over the same period. It is anticipated that Mr Palmer will spend close to $50 million by the time the campaign is over.
With this massive advertising spend giving Mr Palmer an edge, attention has now turned to preference deals, with it being reported that the Liberal Party has struck a deal and will be preferencing the United Australia Party ahead of the Labor Party in lower-house seats and in the Senate.
This deal is expected to hold significant influence, especially in the outcome of marginal seats, and will improve Mr Palmer’s chances in winning a seat in the Senate.
Asked to justify the preference deal, the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, would not confirm or deny the deal, stating,
‘I did see some comments he made about an approach when we made a criticism some years ago. Look, I’m not going to be held back by that, nor am I here to offer any defences of Mr Palmer – he is big enough to do that for himself. Parties will have discussions before close of nominations and the preference tickets, which will be issued next week in the normal course of events.’
Labor frontbencher, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, has denied that the Labor Party approached Mr Palmer for a deal, saying that ‘not once have we been talking to Clive Palmer about preferences because we understand it is a recipe for chaos’.
In broader preference movements, Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann, announced that the Liberal Party would be placing controversial Senator Fraser Anning last in all seats across the country, ‘except in a very small number of seats like Lindsay where… the judgement is made that there is an even worse candidate with an even worse record’.