The only election flyers I have received during this campaign have been from Palmer United Party (PUP). The first was a CD of speeches and a Titanic clip, mass produced in China and distributed to every home in Western Australia; then a written message from Clive Palmer telling me that only PUP can get rid of the carbon and mining taxes.
Our airwaves are saturated with Clive Palmer’s voice, every ad break on television or radio features at least one ad with either Clive or Des Hedland, their number two candidate. There is even one amusing ad featuring Christine Milne, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, all urging us to vote for PUP. Clive Palmer tweeted on March 31:
— Clive Palmer (@CliveFPalmer) March 31, 2014
If advertisements equals caring, WA is getting a whole lot of love from Clive.
The one person missing from the blitzkrieg campaigning is the number one candidate Dio (Zhenya) Wang. Mr Wang has been too busy for interviews and has also been a notable no-show at the three candidates’ forums held last weekend. Mr Wang is the CEO of Australasian Resources. Clive Palmer is majority owner of Australasian Resources.
In my endeavours to find a PUP candidate to speak to, I contacted my previous PUP interviewee hoping for some help. Instead he informed me that he had resigned from the party as had many of the candidates who ran for Lower House seats in the 2013 election. Intrigued, I met with Gary Morris who ran for the federal seat of Moore for PUP in 2013 but resigned his membership earlier this year.
When Mr Morris joined the party was called the United Australia Party. He said: “Then suddenly they couldn’t use that name and ended up having to change the name to Palmer United Party. I had my reservations at the start as having a party with someone’s personal name has never succeeded. Clive’s explanation was that because he had such a high profile, but as he was paying I just have to suck it up as I had committed myself.”
Before the September 2013 election Mr Morris had lunch in Queensland with Peter Burke (Queensland director of PUP). Mr Morris recalled he said: “I said Peter, Clive is after controlling the Senate, and he stopped and said ‘how did you work that out?’ because he has all these high profile Senate candidates, and he said ‘yes it’s true'”.
“So I thought I was on an uphill battle, as his concentration was on Senate candidates, none of the House of Reps candidates were brought over to Brisbane unless they had a high profile. I had my reservations then but I believed in what Clive stood for. But after the election we were dropped like hot potatoes, not even a debrief.”
Mr Morris then tried to start the state branch of PUP and they were told it was going to happen by October. “I set up all the structures as I have done that type of thing before, but they just sat on their hands and did nothing.”
I asked Mr Morris whether he felt the current Senators-elect for the PUP would be directed by Mr Palmer to vote one way or another, and if so that meant they may have a conflict of interest in terms of the carbon and mining taxes which Clive Palmer did not vote on in the lower house due to his personal conflict of interest.
“They should be free, there should be a party line but the party line shouldn’t be about Clive Palmer but a consensus of the party,” Mr Morris said. “Under the constitution the executive council has the final say.”
Usually the executive council is elected by the party members, but they weren’t in this case?
“I was actually nominated by a lot of the WA members, they wanted me number one or number two on the Senate ticket [for the recount],” Mr Morris said. “Got the letter on the Monday stating that I had failed to be nominated by the national executive. The WA membership weren’t even considered.”
The national executive is Clive Palmer, his wife Anna, his son Michael, and his three nephews Clive Mensink, Blair Brewster and Martin Brewster.
Peter Burke told Mr Morris that he couldn’t vote anyway as there was not a state executive. “Obviously that is why there was no state executive because we would have had control over who was nominated.”
Over a two-week period after the letter telling him he wasn’t nominated, the WA membership of the PUP fragmented and there were many resignations including Gary’s. A lot have joined other political parties but some including Gary are starting up their own grassroots party for WA issues.
“We felt like subscribers to a newsletter, that’s all it was,” Morris said. “It’s a shame as I think the PUP, this is my view, is an extension of Clive Palmer’s business empire. There is no separation.”
As far as Palmer’s policies, Morris said: “He capitalised on what he heard people talking about, it’s a marketing ploy. I think their support has dropped this time, [and] the Greens are dying as a party. My prediction is four Labor and two Liberals.”
- Australian Sports Party
- Family First
- Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party
- Australian Fishing and Lifestyle Party
- Shooters and Fishers Party