Rogue former Liberal National Party MP George Christensen is joining One Nation's election campaign for the Senate - a move that could earn him a six-figure taxpayer-funded payout.
The MP for the safe LNP Queensland seat of Dawson - whose controversial views on COVID-19 vaccines and other response to the pandemic attracted widespread criticism, even from his own coalition colleagues - had planned to retire from federal politics.
But at a surprise announcement on Wednesday, Mr Christensen joined leader Pauline Hanson and candidate Raj Guruswamy on the party's Queensland ticket for the May 21 election.
According to parliamentary guidelines, if Mr Christensen is defeated, he will be eligible for a payment of $105,600, or six months' salary as a resettlement allowance, just for his name appearing on the ballot.
Mr Christensen conceded it would be difficult for him to win a Senate seat but insisted there was a prospect.
"It's difficult. I will admit that it's difficult, you know, but as I said, if the job that I do is to ensure that Pauline gets across the line ... that's the job done," he told reporters in Brisbane.
Senator Hanson insisted One Nation could not be underestimated at the election.
"Everybody knows who George Christensen is. He is a fighter for Queensland and has done so in parliament for many years," she said.
"I am proud to actually see that George now has joined One Nation's team."
The outspoken social conservative expressed his disenchantment with the LNP's direction, its net-zero climate pledge and "destructive pandemic policies".
"The push for net zero, I think is going to mean net-zero jobs in regions like central Queensland and north Queensland," Mr Christensen said.
"I'm passionate about vaccine mandates, the response to governments around COVID, which was a complete and utter overreach, blowing up freedoms and rights and all the rest of it, jobs in the economy - for a virus with a 0.27 per cent infection fatality rate."
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce accused his former colleague, who sat in the federal Nationals' party room, of disrespecting his community.
"Of course we are disappointed, any party would be disappointed, that goes without saying. That's life," Mr Joyce said on Wednesday.
He said the many party members in Mackay had shown "incredible loyalty" but had been disrespected by Mr Christensen.
"It's really important you respect people. When they voted for you they saw your name on the ticket and they saw your brand LNP ... you've got to respect it."
LNP senator Matt Canavan joined the chorus of criticism, saying that while he understood Mr Christensen might have been upset with some party room decisions, change had to be fought for.
"It is a desertion," the fellow Queenslander told Nine Network.
"You don't go off and speak to a minor party."
Asked if Mr Christensen could threaten his Queensland upper house seat, Senator Canavan said he took nothing for granted.
"Ultimately you don't have job security ... It's up to the voters," he said.
"But I love a fight, I don't shirk from a fight."
Mr Christensen rejected the criticism.
"I see that other people have been out there saying it's traitorous," he said.
"That's nonsense. The only thing that I was perhaps a bit traitorous to was my own conscience, knowing that some of these policies that the government was pushing that I vehemently disagreed with."
One Nation said it would field candidates in 151 lower house electorates across the country.
It said its membership had grown since the start of the pandemic, which resulted in lockdowns at various times across the country.
Australian Associated Press
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