Clive Palmer's United Australia Party is "surfing the rather odious wave of fake news" as it makes serious inroads into the Liberal and National Party vote, a leading political analyst says.
Flinders University professor of politics Haydon Manning says UAP is the clearest example yet in Australian politics of a populist party appealing to floating voters, those people with no particular political affiliations and who often make up their minds as late as polling day.
"UAP is essentially a populist party prone to spruiking conspiracy theories," he said.
"UAP claims Chinese ownership of Australian infrastructure is part of a military plan to take over Australia and that Labor has a secret plan to force five million people into unemployment.
"Fake news never got in the way of a relentless political push and UAP is surfing that rather odious wave as it pitches to the floating voter."
With the increased support for Mr Palmer's party, Prof Manning said the federal government had little choice but to agree to a preference deal ahead of the May 18 election.
But with preference flows from UAP to the Liberals and Nationals possibly as low as 60 per cent, or even lower, he said the gains for Prime Minister Scott Morrison might not be big as the government would hope for.
Australian Associated Press