Left Menu
Development News Edition

Populist candidate with 'Make Australia Great' campaign eyes for election win

Devdiscourse News Desk | Updated: 17-05-2019 13:56 IST | Created: 17-05-2019 11:30 IST
Populist candidate with 'Make Australia Great' campaign eyes for election win
Full-page spreads in major newspapers promote the party platform, while Palmer's portly visage, thumbs up, peers down from canary yellow billboards across the country. Image Credit: Flickr

A billionaire who built his own Jurassic Park and promises a replica Titanic may hold the balance of power in Australia's parliament if his populist campaign wins enough votes in Saturday's general election.

Clive Palmer, whose slogan "Make Australia Great" echoes U.S. President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign, has spent tens of millions of dollars on a campaign aimed at disaffected voters in a country where casting a ballot is compulsory. The unprecedented spending in an Australian election could help the businessman capture a powerful bloc in the upper house Senate, analysts say, and force a new government to seek his help to pass legislation.

"There's a strong possibility that he could hold the balance of power," said Rohan Millar, an academic at Sydney University. Palmer's United Australia Party promises fast trains for the east coast cities of Sydney and Brisbane and a 20% increase in pension payments for the elderly.

Full-page spreads in major newspapers promote the party platform, while Palmer's portly visage, thumbs up, peers down from canary yellow billboards across the country. "It's a very simple platform. As the major parties are engaging in negative campaigning, he's got the bright yellow colours, offering a new direction, a return to jobs and prosperity," Millar said.

"There are large tracts of Australia where he resonates," he added, though the party has not said how it will pay for its promises. It has spent A$44.4 million ($30.7 million) in TV, print and radio advertising since September, according to Nielsen Ad Intel Portfolio data, compared to a combined A$22.4 million by the incumbent Liberal-led coalition and opposition Labor party. The data did not include online advertising or the campaign's final week when Palmer ran prominent newspaper ads.


He first entered parliament in 2013 when his Palmer United Party captured a crucial handful of seats in the Senate, where the party held the balance and was able to block or pass legislation as an unlikely power-broker. But his influence waned after two senators quit the party. Palmer did not seek re-election after the worst attendance record of any politician, parliament records show.

Palmer, who made it back onto Forbes' rich list after a five-year hiatus, has stood out even in a country known for its larger-than-life tycoons. He has hosted glamorous parties in New York and Townsville in his home state of Queensland for his proposed Titanic II, which he says will be built in shipyards in China.

He created a theme park with robotic dinosaurs on Queensland's coast. The park and a nearby resort now lie vacant and in disrepair. Palmer cultivates a jovial image, poking fun at himself by writing haiku about hamburgers and on the campaign trail creating a videogame in which players binge on biscuits and dodge political opponents portrayed as cockroaches.

That irreverence extends to the electoral process. He spammed hundreds of thousands of voters this year with text messages pledging to stop political phone spam if elected. But behind the jocularity lies a controversial businessman.

Before laying off 800 workers and devastating the local economy, Palmer's Queensland Nickel refinery, which went into administration in 2016, donated A$20 million to his first election campaign. Palmer, who said the matter was out of his hands, has now begun to settle the claims of former workers but the government is pursuing him to recover an A$66 million bailout package, just as the winner of Saturday's election may need his help to pass legislation.

Palmer also owns a coal deposit in Queensland's remote Galilee basin, where India's Adani Enterprises is struggling to gain final government approvals for a hugely controversial heating coal mine. If approved, Adani plans to build a new rail line that would connect the basin to the port and ease development of new projects, including Palmer's deposit.

Analysts say his expensive campaign does not guarantee electoral success on Saturday. It's difficult to win a Senate seat, let alone a bloc of seats, in a system dominated by two major parties, said John Warhurst, emeritus professor in political science at the Australian National University. "If he does get in, he would be influential," Warhurst said. "He would be tricky to deal with, super-confident, a bit unpredictable, but potentially a good negotiator."



‘Discounted Deaths’ and COVID 19: Anthropology of Death and Emotions

Death is a social event rather than the mere cessation of biological functions. As seen by anthropologists, death is not just physical but intensely social, cultural, and political....

Indigenous knowledge of communities a must for maximizing impact of community work

Generally, it has been observed that the majority of the academicians in higher education institutions neglect the wisdom of community people and throw their weight around thinking that they know everything and the community knows nothing. ...

In rebuking FBR, Pakistan’s courts take a stand for public health

The system, if implemented effectively, will allow Pakistans revenue service to combat the illicit trade in tobacco products and potentially add hundreds of millions of dollars to the states budget each year. ...

Dissecting how COVID-19 is catalyzing the trajectory of New World Order

The ensuing pandemic of COVID-19 has hit the globalization in two ways firstly, shrinking the importance of globalization as an economic force by curtailing mobility through worldwide lockdowns, and secondly, rejuvenating the idea of indig...


Latest News

Australia's rugby league football to kick off as COVID-19 cases slow

Australias National Rugby League football competition, a bruising body contact sport, will on Thursday resume after a two-month hiatus as the number of coronavirus cases in the country slows and social restrictions are eased.Australias more...

Philippines' task force recommends easing of lockdown in capital

The Philippines coronavirus task force has recommended to President Rodrigo Duterte easing lockdown measures in Manila from June 1, despite the country still reporting some of its highest daily numbers of COVID-19 cases and missing testing ...

Looting erupts during Minneapolis protests over black man's killing by police

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey on Wednesday called on prosecutors to file criminal charges against a white police officer shown on a bystanders video pressing his knee into the neck of a handcuffed African-American man who later died at a hos...

INSIGHT-No way back: Indian workers shun city jobs after lockdown ordeal

By Roli Srivastava and Anuradha Nagaraj MUMBAICHENNAI, May 28 Thomson Reuters Foundation - When power loom operator Lokanath Swain boarded a bus home after a 40-day wait in the Indian textile hub of Surat, he took a silent vow - to never re...

Give Feedback