United Australia Party
In 2016, Palmer graciously vacated the seat of Fairfax in Queensland after three years of political infamy and ongoing ‘questionable’ business practices which has seen 800 workers allegedly fighting to get their due redundancy payout following the ‘collapse’ of Queensland Nickel in 2016.
Palmer started putting out 100s of bright yellow billboards across the country in June 2018, six months ahead of the formal registration of his new party, along with smothering election campaign advertising on television's across Australia.
Clive Palmer, is expected to run as a candidate for the Queensland seat of Herbert in the 2019 federal election. The name of his party has changed from the Palmer United Party (2013) to the United Australia Party, formally registered by the AEC in December 2018.
Palmer is seeking the rebirth of his political career through the
“… huge number of people [who] have withdrawn support and lost confidence in the Liberal and Labor duopoly that is dragging the country down. That number is growing rapidly because the Liberals and Labor continually show how out of touch they are with the people they were elected to represent. Hardworking Australians are looking for an effective alternative and that alternative is the United Australia Party".
Source: United Australia Party. UNITED AUSTRALIA PARTY OFFICIALLY REGISTERED Dec 13, 2018. https://www.unitedaustraliaparty.org.au/united-australia-party-officially-registered
Background 2013 -2016
The seat of Fairfax
Palmer’s first foray into federal politics as leader of the new Palmer United Party was in 2013. The Palmer United Party [PUP] received 709,035 first preference votes to capture 5.5 percent of the national primary vote.
In his home State of Queensland, PUP won 278,125 first preference votes to capture 11.0 percent of the primary vote.
PUP was the only significant ‘alternative party’ option for non-Green voters apart from the Katter Party which won 94,540 first preference votes for 3.75 percent of the Queensland vote.
A Pauline Hanson creation, the One Nation Party primary vote had collapsed to a meagre 2,529 votes.
In his own seat of Fairfax, Palmer stripped 26.4 percent of the first preference vote from Labor (-9.0), The Greens (-9.6) and the LNP (-8.1). The LNP primary vote slipped to 41.3 percent.
With the support of second preferences, Palmer won the seat by 53 votes with a 2PP margin of 50.03 percent. Mr Palmer retired from the seat of Fairfax prior to the 2016 general election. The seat returned to the LNP with a 7.1 percent first preference vote recovery.
Source: Australian Electoral Commission https://results.aec.gov.au/17496/Website/HouseDivisionFirstPrefs-17496-160.htm
Three Palmer United Party members were elected to the Senate in 2013.
Glenn Lazarus (Queensland)
Lazarus was elected as a Queensland Senator under the Palmer United Party banner in 2013. His term began on the 1st of July 2014. On March 2th 2015 he resigned as a member of the Palmer United Party and served out his single term first as an Independent and then under the Glen Lazarus Team banner until his defeat in the 2016 election.
Source: Parliament of Australia: Members and Senators https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian?MPID=108616
Jacqui Lambie (Tasmania)
Lambie was elected as a Tasmanian Senator under the Palmer United Party banner in 2013. Her term began on the 1st of July 2014. On November 24th, 2014 she resigned as a member of the Palmer United Party and served out her first senate term as an Independent. From May 14th 2015 she formed the Jacqui Lambie Network, won a second senate term in 2016 and remained a senator until she resigned in November 2017.
Source: Parliament of Australia: Members and Senators. https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Parliamentarian?MPID=250026
Dion Wang (Western Australia)
Wang was elected as a Queensland Senator under the Palmer United Party banner in 2013. His term began on the 1st of July 2014. Unlike Lazarus and Lambie, Wang continued as a Palmer United Party Senator until his defeat in the 2016 election.
In June 2018, NSW Senator for the Pauline Hanson One Nation Party, Brian Burston, defected to the United Australia Party, giving Palmer's new party a seat in the Senate before one vote was cast in the election. Burston's term as a Senator expires at the next election. Therefore United Australia enters the 2019 election with no elected members.
Source: United Australia Party Media release Senator Brian Burston to lead United Australia Party in the Senate June 18 2018 https://www.unitedaustraliaparty.org.au/45032-2/
The seat of Herbert 2013 – 2016
Prior to the expected candidacy of Clive Palmer under the United Australia Party banner, a nephew of Clive Palmer, Martin Brewster, stood for the Queensland seat of Herbert under the Palmer United Party banner in 2013 and 2016. '
Brewster is a former Australian Army serviceman and previously a senior executive of Palmer's Queensland Nickel.
Brewster first contested this seat for the Palmer United Party at the 2013 election winning I7,573 votes for 8.8 percent of the primary vote. Ewen Jones won the seat for a second time with an improved advantage.
In his seminal 2016 Election Guide, Antony Green noted that Brewster “has been reported as a 'revenge' candidate against the LNP's Ewen Jones. Jones has been a stern critic of Palmer and his management of the nickel refinery”.
Source: Antony Green, 2016 Election Guide. https://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2016/guide/herb/
It would seem Palmer’s nephew achieved the reported “revenge” goal in 2016.
Despite receiving only 315 votes for 0.3 percent of first preferences in the 2016 election, Palmer United Party second preferences flowed 198 votes to Cathy O’Toole and 117 votes to Ewen Jones.
The 81 vote advantage that O’Toole received from Palmer United Party voters second preferences contributed to the downfall of Ewen Jones. He lost the seat by a meagre 37 votes to Cathy O’Toole.
Sources: Australian Electoral Commission. Two Party Preferred Preference Flows. Herbert, 2016. https://results.aec.gov.au/20499/Website/HouseDivisionPage-20499-165.htm Australian Electoral Commission: https://results.aec.gov.au/17496/Website/HouseDivisionFirstPrefs-17496-165.htm https://results.aec.gov.au/20499/Website/HouseDivisionPage-20499-165.htm
The 2016 election in Herbert
As already noted above, Kathy O’Toole won the seat of Herbert for Labor by 37 second preference votes ahead of LNP incumbent Ewen Jones. However, this remained an impressive win for O’Toole and Labor because it took a two-party preferred swing of 6.1 percent against a well-established two term LNP incumbent to win in 2016.
Clive Palmer would have to improve significantly on his nephew’s first preference results in 2013 and 2016 under the Palmer United Party banner to have any hope of winning this seat for his newly formed United Australia Party.
Speculation that he might re-contest the Queensland seat of Fairfax which he won in 2013 under another guise [albeit with a very small margin] has been dashed by allegations that his controversial business practices spread all over national media made Palmer a little too familiar to the good people of the Fairfax electorate to have any hope there. So, on to Herbert.
Fast Forward to June 2018
In June 2018, Palmer was having problems that are yet to be resolved. Yet he was able to fund 100s of pre-election billboards across the country spruiking his yet-to-be-registered United Australia Party.
The Townsville Nickel refinery
Undeterred by less than welcome reactions to his June 2018 announcement of a new political foray, Palmer attempted to put pressure on the Queensland Government to intervene on his behalf to gain access to the Townsville Port for a revived nickel refinery.
Palmer put out a media release as Chairman of entity QNI Resources. He claimed that “the board have voted to take over” and reopen the Queensland Nickel owned Yabulu refinery north of Townsville.
Queensland Nickel went into administrative liquidation in 2016 with $300m in outstanding creditor debts. Also 800 Townsville area workers found themselves suddenly out of a job when the Yabulu refinery was consequently moth balled.
In a statement, the Special Purpose Liquidators of Queensland Nickel welcomed the possible re-opening of the Yabulu Refinery.
"Given that most, if not all, former staff of the refinery are still owed entitlements, any move to recommence operations which can support the employment of affected workers in the Townsville area is a positive development, As a self-proclaimed supporter of the Townsville region, and Queensland's wealthiest person, Mr Palmer is clearly in a position to repay the substantial amounts of money owed to Queensland Nickel creditors, including unpaid employees."
Palmer sought to frame the problem for QNI Resources. It would need access to the port at Townsville, Problem? The Port of Townsville and the Queensland Government was, allegedly, being "uncooperative", blocking access. Palmer claimed that
"Already 560 families in Townsville have registered for employment at the refinery. If we could just get back on to the Port, we'd be able to employ 100 people tomorrow to start the work of getting our wharf and train-loading equipment ready for the first shipment of nickel ore. If that happened quickly, we'd need a further 100 employees before Christmas, and we'd expect to be at full employment levels of around 750 within 12 months. It's time for the Premier to put the public's money where her mouth is … this is an asset owned by the people of Queensland, and it should be used to benefit the people of Queensland.”.
Framed this way, Palmer was implying that QNI Resources bid to reopen the moth balled refinery and have over 800 employees back on the job within 12 months was being undermined by The Townsville Port and/or the Queensland State Government.
One of the things Palmer neglected to mention in this discourse was the fact that questions would have to be answered. How would he/ QNI Resources finance the re-opening of the Townsville refining when a month earlier the Supreme Court has frozen more than $500 million worth of Mr Palmer's private and company assets.
Another was the glaring matter of the ongoing court saga of alleged unpaid redundancy entitlements for 800 staff and outstanding debts to creditors of the defunct Queensland Nickel.
The Queensland Government response to the Palmer allegations was straight forward and blunt.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said "He's not getting any money from us. He needs to pay his workers and pay his bills."
Queensland's Innovation and Tourism Minister Kate Jones said it was
"about time the Clive Palmer Party became extinct like the dinosaurs he bought at his resort that he ran into the ground". She questioned how Mr Palmer could afford to run a new version of his political party in a federal election, given the ongoing battle to pay Queensland Nickel's workers in Townsville".
Source: The Guardian. Clive Palmer relaunches PUP as United Australia Party. 17 June, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jun/17/clive-palmer-relaunches-pup-as-united-australia-party-and-announces-political-return.
Queensland government minister Stephen Miles said he did not believe anything Mr Palmer had to say. “I don't think this will happen. I think that Clive is using it for publicity for his own political gains in the lead-up to what he hopes will be his re-election."
Palmer moves to Townsville to pursue his political and commercial interests.
Palmer’s response to the Queensland government was to declare that he would move his family to Townsville for two key reasons.
One was to continue to pursue the QRI Resources goal of re-opening the refinery and the re-employment of 800+ Townsville workers.
The other was to coyly confirm that he would not rule out contesting the Federal seat of Herbert in 2019. "We'll just have to see what the reaction is to re-opening the refinery," Mr Palmer said.
Source: Tim Swanston and Josh Bavas Clive Palmer calls for Government support to reopen Townsville nickel refinery but Premier says no Updated 29 Jun 2018. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-29/clive-palmer-announces-plans-to-reopen-yabulu-refinery/9921390
The LNP Candidate for Herbert
At a time when the lack of female representatives in the Coalition was being publicly criticised as inadequate at best, putting pressure on the Coalition members to nominate more female candidates for winnable seats, the LNP membership opted again for a male candidate in Herbert.
Mr Palmer will not have to go up against his nemesis Ewen Jones in 2019. Phillip Thompson is the 2019 LNP candidate for Herbert. LNP member Ewen Jones, who won this seat twice before losing it to O’Toole, may not have enjoyed reading the local news in an election year.
Mr Thompson contacted the media to issue a public apology in early January 2019. He apologised to the people of Townsville for a 2012 tirade on Facebook threatening to harm Muslims after violent protests in Sydney in response to a film portraying the prophet Mohammed as a paedophile.
His Facebook post read "I know what I’m doing this week, getting my gun licence" and "give me a M4 and send me to Sydney and I'll do the dishes". Mr Thompson was Queensland's Young Australian of the Year in 2018.
Mr Thompson said he wanted a clean slate before the election.
“The people of Townsville deserve to know who they're voting for, they deserve to know the warts-and-all story. Those comments don't reflect who I am today."
The seat of Herbert is in the urban area of Townsville where soldiers from the local army base hang out. Mr Thompson is ‘ex-army’ which will make him appealing to conservative leaning voters.
The LNP is putting in considerable resources to win Herbert back. Prime Minister Scott Morrison had visited the seat with Mr Thompson weeks before his public apology.
Acting president of the LNP, David Hutchinson, said Thompson has made mistakes but would be
"a great local member for Herbert. The LNP is aware of the struggles that Phillip Thompson faced while suffering from PTSD,".
Sources: Laura Gartry and Tim Shepherd LNP candidate for Herbert Phillip Thompson apologises for 2012 social media tirade against Muslims. ABC News Online, Jan 6 2019. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-05/townsville-lnp-candidate-apologises-for-outburst-against-muslims/10687358?section=politics
1 Having lost two Palmer United Party senators who resigned and formed their own parties, another who lost his second term Senate bid in 2016 and the failure of his nephew to win Herbert in 2013 and 2016, Mr Palmer faces the 2019 election with a new party brand and no current elected representatives.
Source: Lucy Stone. Clive Palmer changes party name to United Australia Party. SMH June 17th, 2018. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/clive-palmer-changes-party-name-to-united-australia-party-20180617-p4zly9.html
2 There was a big field of 10+ candidates for the 2016 election in Herbert with 34.1 percent of the primary vote going ‘third parties’ other than Labor or the LNP. That included 13.5 percent of the primary vote going to the revitalised Pauline Hanson One Nation Party [PHON]
4.1 percent behind LNP incumbent Ewen Jones after the primary vote was counted, O’Toole won 53 percent of the 32,585 second preference votes to put her nose across the line first by a handful of votes. The dominant third-party preference flow of PHON split 51.6 percent to Labor.
3 Given the ‘somophore’ surge of 1-2 percent expected for Cathy O’Toole seeking a second term, the revitalisation of PHON in Herbert doing good rather than harm to O’Toole in 2016, the expected big field of third party candidates for the seat in 2019 pushing Palmer into a 8-9 third party candidate battle for voters attention, Palmer has no hope of winning Herbert unless he can work a miracle and re-open the Yabulu refinery before the 2019 election in May.
As evidenced in the blanket advertising for the United Australia Party on billboards across Australia since June 2018, Clive Palmer has wider political ambitions than winning the seat of Herbert.
The United Australia website declares that “the party would contest all upper and lower house seats in the upcoming federal election“.
We will have to wait and see where the party actually field’s candidates to speculate further on the prospects of this party.
PHON defector to UAP Brian Burston will have to stand for the Senate in 2019 under the UAP flag to retain his seat.
It would be reasonable at this stage (January 2019) to assume that Palmer’s only real hope of his Party winning seats in the 2019 Parliament election are in the senate.
The nuances and mathematics involved in predicting senate seat outcomes is well above my pay grade. However, winning three senate seats in one election (2013) with a maiden-party brand is encouraging for the senate hopes of a new Palmer led party, except perhaps in Queensland where the 'redneck bogan vote' is dominated by the PHON party.
FURTHER UPDATES TO COME