How Clive Palmer's Annoying Ads Could 'Buy' Him A Senate Seat
He's all over your TV, blowing up your phone notifications, assaulting you from lurid billboards -- but Clive Palmer's "sledgehammer" ad campaign is going to "buy" him a Senate seat, experts predict.
After several years in the political wilderness, Clive Palmer is back. Following the spectacular rise and fall of his Palmer United Party in 2013, Palmer returned to the political fray last year with his re-badged United Australia Party.
A frenetic advertising campaign estimated to cost $30 million so far saw bright yellow branding plastered on billboards nationwide, TV ads blanketing screens, and millions of unsolicited text messages sent to voters.
Election strategist and 'preference whisperer' Glenn Druery said the carpetbomb approach definitely can pay dividends in Australia.
"His impact could be unprecedented... Does this money make a difference? Bloody oath it does," he told 10 daily.
With his 'Make America Great' slogan, the Donald Trump inspiration isn't hard to spot in Palmer's campaign.
The UAP spend could cost as much as $50 million by the time of the election, with political rivals concerned it could "buy" Palmer a spot in the parliament.
"There's obviously a real risk his enormous cash splash will buy him a Senate seat," a Greens source told 10 daily.
"We consider him to be a genuine threat for the final spot, as well as [Fraser Anning] and [One Nation's Malcolm] Roberts and the LNP candidate who is third on their ticket."
Despite scandal still surrounding Palmer's business interests -- workers from his Queensland Nickel plant are calling for their entitlements to be paid after the facility's 2016 liquidation -- the ad blitz seems to be working. A recent poll found UAP support at around 10 percent in several crucial seats.
These numbers, while unlikely to translate into lower house seats, potentially make Palmer a 'kingmaker', with his choice of preferences to be a big factor in who wins those electorates. It may even propel the mining magnate into the Senate in his own right.
It is expected the Liberal Party will preference UAP high up on its how-to-vote cards, and they will be hoping the favour is returned; Palmer's preferences will potentially be the crucial decider in whether the Coalition or Labor win tightly-contested seats.
A Labor source said that between Roberts and Palmer, "one of them will be a federal senator" after the May 18 poll, crediting the UAP's "remarkably simple" ads and huge spend.
Druery says people who underestimate Palmer do so at their own risk.
"His impact could be unprecedented. I was one of the smartypants people who said he wouldn't have an impact last time, but I didn't know how deep his pockets were," Druery told 10 daily.
Druery works with minor party politicians, helping corral loose alliances to help direct voting preferences. He said he isn't working with Palmer's team, but offered this advice:
"He does have to be a very clever strategist from here. He's using a sledgehammer, a bulldozer, nuclear bomb approach. He needs to adopt watchmaker's tools."
Each state gets 12 Senate spots. In Queensland, where Palmer will run, the 2016 double-dissolution election saw five Coalition and two One Nation members elected, alongside four Labor and one Greens.
This time around, there are only six Senate seats up for grabs, and voting law reforms in 2016 have made it harder for minor parties to pick up seats.
Polling analysts predict the major parties will pick two to three seats each in Queensland, leaving the Greens and minor parties like UAP to fight for the remainder.
That could see Palmer coming up against Roberts, Anning, or Greens senator Larissa Waters for the last seat or two, depending on preference flows.
"He is picking up some votes because of general disaffection with major parties," Dr Kevin Brianton, deputy head of politics and media at La Trobe University, told 10 daily.
"About 25 percent are not going to vote for the major parties, which has led to the growth of the Greens, One Nation and other splinter groups."
"We don't know how strong voter disaffection with the Coalition is. [Palmer] will be looking for their votes but has to contend with One Nation, which is very strong. It's a three-cornered contest."
Palmer's UAP vote has spiked as One Nation's has fallen, amid continuing fallout from the hidden camera investigation into party meetings with the U.S. National Rifle Association. Palmer will be looking to carve off some of the 'protest vote' that went to Pauline Hanson's party at the 2016 poll -- a strategy which won't be harmed by Palmer's poaching of former One Nation senator Brian Burston.
"He's presenting the party as an alternative to disaffected Liberal voters who are unhappy but can't bring themselves to vote One Nation," Dr Zareh Ghazarian, a political scientist at Monash University, told 10 daily.
UAP are doing things like talking about economy, jobs, but they're not at the extreme end like One Nation about race and immigration.
But as The Australian newspaper pointed out this week, those policies are relatively threadbare. The 'national policy' section of the UAP's website contains just four points and around 150 words -- the first being an obscure niche policy about political lobbyists, and other vague promises around 'revising' refugee policy and 'creating mineral wealth'.
Policies plastered on billboards make similarly vague promises around fast trains, taxes and jobs.
Druery said it didn't matter how thin Palmer's policy slate was, or the lingering scandals over his business interests -- it simply mattered that his name was everywhere.
"We have compulsory voting in this country, but 30 or 40 percent of people couldn't care less and are disengaged. They see somebody out there offering hope to keep the bastards honest. A lot of people wont even know who Clive is," he predicted.
"The collective intelligence of the voters as a voting bloc, it could be better. Clive is throwing shitloads of money at this, when most people are disengaged and many don't like Labor or Liberals.
"Clive only has to scoop up a bit of that to be a kingmaker."
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