“We’ll be the story of the night,” mining billionaire Clive Palmer boasted as exit polls showed his Palmer United Party was winning 9.5 per cent of the primary vote in Queensland, giving it a real chance at a Senate spot in its first electoral outing.
But when it came to his own chances of winning a seat in Parliament, Mr Palmer finally eschewed his trademark bluster in favour of honesty late on polling day.
“I don’t know why you guys [the media] are following me around when I’m going to lose,” he said in an aside, referring to his bid to win the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax.
While political hardheads have dismissed Mr Palmer’s campaign as a rich man’s folly, the Palmer United Party – along with Katter’s Australian Party and the Greens – were expected to benefit in the Senate from voter dissatisfaction with both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott.
“A lot of people are dissatisfied with Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott. We’re the only other party that offers a viable alternative,” Mr Palmer said before voting closed on Saturday.
“Our party only started 14 weeks ago. To get the support we’ve got is really unprecedented in Australia.”
A Roy Morgan-Channel Ten exit poll recorded a 9.5 per cent share of the primary vote in Queensland for the Palmer United Party and 5 per cent in NSW and WA.
This follows polls at the start of the final week of the campaign which put support for Palmer United Party at 8 per cent in Queensland, and indicated lead Senate candidate, the former rugby league player Glenn Lazarus, could get up.
Katter’s Australian Party registered 4 per cent support in the same poll, and the Greens had 8 per cent of the primary vote.
Mr Palmer was never considered likely to win Fairfax, which has been held by retiring Coalition MP Alex Somlyay since 1990. Yet he has provided the only colour in an otherwise dreary campaign – twerking for Kyle and Jackie O on 2Day FM, accusing Rupert Murdoch’s soon to be ex-wife Wendi Deng of being a Chinese spy and promising voters a 15 per cent tax cut.
Rivals believe Mr Palmer’s advertising blitz tapped into a growing protest vote against the major parties. Mr Palmer’s campaign spend included an estimated $1 million on television ads in the last week of the campaign alone, direct mail DVDs, billboards, large colour newspaper ads and automated phone calls to voters.
Mr Palmer told Fairfax Media he spent “much more” on his campaign than the $2 million reported in the media. “You should spend your money on better things,” Labor supporters heckled Mr Palmer at one polling booth stop.
While Mr Palmer’s antics have overshadowed Bob Katter, the veteran North Queensland MP was expected to keep his seat of Kennedy.
Handing out how-to-vote cards in Mt Isa yesterday Mr Katter said he’d had more positive feedback this election day than on any other. “But as I’ve said, I’ve never gone into an election feeling confident,” he said.
Star Katter’s Australian Party candidate country singer James Blundell was considered in the running for a Queensland Senate seat and the Greens were also hopeful their Senate candidate Adam Stone would get up.
The sixth Queensland Senate spot is expected to be decided by a series of complicated preference swaps.
Mr Lazarus has already said that if he were elected he would consult Mr Palmer in deciding how to vote in the upper house.
Mr Palmer said it would be “a real shame” if he didn’t win a seat himself, “but I’ll still be alive, I’ll still build the Titanic, I’ll still travel around the world and I’ll live a peaceful life.”
- with AAP