Clive Palmer for PM?
Mining billionaire Clive Palmer forms a new political party to contest the federal election, saying it's "up to the people" whether he becomes Prime Minister.PT1M34S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2iiag 620 349 April 26, 2013
Katter's Australian Party is welcoming Clive Palmer's new party with open arms, describing it as a ''strengthening of forces'' against the Labor Party and the Coalition.
KAP national director Aidan McLindon told Fairfax Media on Friday that far from seeing the billionaire miner’s election plan as a threat, it would strengthen his party's election chances.
Mining magnate Clive Palmer has re-formed the UAP to contest the federal election. Photo: Rob Homer
This came after Mr Palmer insisted that he had nothing to do with KAP.
On Thursday, Mr Palmer announced he was restarting the United Australia Party, which was dissolved in 1945. The former life member of the Liberal National Party (LNP) – who quit the party last year – initially said the new UAP would contest 127 lower house seats in the federal election and stand for all seats in the Senate.
After strong interest following the announcement, Mr Palmer said the party would stand in all 150 lower house seats.
The mining magnate later confirmed that he would run in the Liberal-held seat of Fairfax, held by Alex Somlyay since 1990. Mr Somlyay will retire at the September election and Sunshine Coast businessman Ted O'Brien will contest the seat which houses Mr Palmer's Coolum resort and dinosaur park.
Mr O'Brien said the news that Mr Palmer would run against him in Fairfax was ''unexpected but not alarming''.
He said had been a full-time candidate for almost six months, and that the news would not change his strategy or plan.
Mr Palmer also has larger ambitions, telling reporters at a press conference in Brisbane that he was running to be prime minister of Australia.
He said he was not throwing his hat into the ring for personal gain. ''I have no personal interest. I have made enough money in my life,'' he said. ''I'm not seeking any enrichment or wealth for myself; I am seeking it for the Australian people.''
Mr Palmer, who had threatened to run for parliament and set up his own party before, said there were key differences between his new UAP and the Liberals, including on refugee policy and the axing of the carbon tax.
Palmer's party will also pit him against fellow Queenslander Bob Katter's party – formed in 2011 – which is also planning to contest every seat in the election.
Mr McLindon said that Mr Palmer's decision backed up what Mr Katter had been saying for the past 10 years – that there was no difference between the Labor Party and the Coalition.
''We certainly welcome more players onto the field,'' he said.
The national director said that while there may be ''fringe differences'' between Mr Katter and Mr Palmer on economic issues, they shared a lot of common ground, particularly around nation building or ''developmentalism''.
Mr McLindon said KAP had talked to the miner as recently as late last year and would now seek to begin negotiations with Mr Palmer, with the hope of reaching preference deals.
But on Friday, the co-operative rhetoric did not appear to be matched by Mr Palmer, who told ABC Radio he was ''totally different'' from Mr Katter on a range of policy questions, including gun control.
''We have nothing to do with the Katter Party,'' he said, adding that Mr Katter had no experience of business.
When asked about an alliance with the KAP at a later press conference in Brisbane, Mr Palmer replied: ''No, any other questions?''
But Mr McLindon said that with Mr Katter's political experience and Mr Palmer's business background, the two could make a formidable team.
''They are pretty different in appearance but pretty similar in objectives,'' he said.
Australian National University emeritus professor of political science John Warhurst said that while Mr Palmer's plan to field candidates in every lower house seat and Senate spot was possible, there were risks in running a last-minute campaign.
With about three and a half months to go until the election campaign starts on August 12, Mr Palmer's party would struggle to carry out due diligence on potential candidates, Professor Warhurst said.
''The difficulty is finding good candidates,'' he said, noting that One Nation and Family First struggled with the same issue.
''Its a question of getting people without baggage.''
Professor Warhurst said that it was also very late to be starting local campaigns, but added that Mr Palmer had the advantage of funds and a public profile.
''With money and energy it's possible for him to get it done.''
Professor Warhurst said that Mr Palmer's party could confuse voters and split the Coalition vote. The new UAP may be a complicating factor in the Queensland Senate race and in the seat of Fairfax.
On Friday, former prime minister Queenslander Kevin Rudd called Mr Palmer’s new party a ''last-minute stunt'', questioning why he was setting up the party so close to the election.
''Why on earth are you doing it now?'' Mr Rudd told Channel Seven.
''If you're going to run and put a lot of money behind your campaign, at least the Australian people have the right to put you under some scrutiny about what policies you’re going to take to an election.''
In a rare show of bi-partisanship, shadow treasurer Joe Hockey agreed Mr Palmer needed to detail his policies.
''I'm with Kevin I want to see his policies,'' he said.
Of Mr Palmer, Mr Hockey also said: ''He's out there in his own orbit and he’s entitled to that place.''
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott told reporters in Adelaide that ''anyone'' was entitled to run for parliament and aspire to be leader of the country.
But Mr Abbott dismissed Mr Palmer as a threat to the Coalition's electoral chances.
''If you are serious about changing the prime minister, well, there's one candidate,'' Mr Abbott said.
''I suspect that if there's another party on the fridge, it might compete with Mr Katter's party.''
What's in a name?
There is a question as to whether Mr Palmer will be able to re-register "The United Australia Party" as his party's name.
A different group, the Uniting Australia Party, has already lodged an application with the Australian Electoral Commission.
The Electoral Act says the Commission can refuse a registration if the party's name "so nearly resembles" the name of another political party that it is likely to be confused with or mistaken for that name.
Mr Palmer did not appear to see this as an issue on Friday.
"The AEC doesn't have the power not to accept it, we own the trademark," he told Fairfax Media.
"They may not care about [trademarks] but maybe the courts will care about them."