- The Guardian
- Issue #1974
Mining magnate Clive Palmer is once again ramping up the populist rhetoric. The former MP and leader of Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (“UAP”) has been buying up banner space on the front page of the Murdoch’s The Australian and Nine Entertainment’s Sydney Morning Herald, denouncing the lockdowns, crying for “freedom.” The banner also reads, “[w]e can never trust the Liberals or Labor Parties Again!”
Last year, Palmer lost a High Court challenge against Western Australia’s border closure, being ordered to pay for court costs in the process. This, however, has evidently not stopped Palmer from publicly spatting over both state and federal government’s handling of the pandemic.
You won’t be surprised that Australia’s facsimile of Donald Trump has been spreading anti-vax propaganda. Palmer has threatened to sue Western Australia over its vaccine roll-out. He has also threatened to mount a high court challenge against the federal government over a potential “vaccine passport.” Qualifying such a move as “unconstitutional,” Palmer stated:
“Our Prime Minister is blackmailing Australians with threats that they must be vaccinated, which is an attack on our liberty and our rights.” He added, “he will defend and protect the Australian public from the Prime Minister’s outrageous campaign with experimental vaccines.”
WA Premier Mark McGowan told the media that he hoped Palmer would “not be irresponsible,” adding that “vaccines have shown around the world to save lives.”
Despite the fact that Palmer (yet again) is portraying himself as the alternative to the two-party system, we must not lose sight of what he is really doing: leveraging votes for his own self-interest.
Palmer’s political party “UAP” ’s sole purpose is to ensure that the ALP don’t return to government. This is not speculation, Palmer stated this himself after Morrison’s “miracle” win in 2019:
“The goal for the United Australia Party was to ensure the Labor government did not get into power, introducing more than $1tril of new taxes […]. This has been achieved.”
While Palmer’s party only picked up 3.5 per cent of the vote at the last federal election, those votes went to the Coalition, which dominated Queensland, thanks to preference deals. Furthermore, Palmer spent a reported $60mil on advertising, including the infamous “Shifty Shorten” ads.
Thus, by playing the part of the brave, independent, Palmer is preparing to leverage his base against the Liberal Party and Morrison’s sinking approval ratings.
To be sure, Palmer will most definitely redo what he did at the last election, sign preference deals and spend money out of pocket attacking the ALP. However, by making the Liberal party desperate for votes, Palmer can make meatier demands.
Palmer’s rhetoric is dangerous, both Murdoch and Nine Entertainment should be reprimanded for allowing Palmer to buy space to undermine the science and research that has so painstakingly been done in figuring out how to effectively combat this virus.