Federal Election 2019: Meet the United Australia Party

Summary

Website: https://www.unitedaustraliaparty.org.au
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UnitedAusParty/
Previous names: Palmer United
Slogans:
Make Australia Great
Put Australia First
What Australia Grows, Grows Australia. Support Aussie Farmers
Themes: The lucky country.  Wealth creation, especially by mining, manufacturing and tax cuts.  Clive Palmer personality cult?  Feels a bit Trumpian, but without the absolute lack of compassion.  Doesn’t like Bill Shorten.
Electorate:
Upper House: All of them.
Lower House: All of them.
Preferences: As has been the subject of endless media conversation, United Australia is preferencing the Coalition in every seat.  Other favourite political parties are the Australian Conservatives, who they put in their top five wherever they are running, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, likewise.  United Australia is not afraid to embrace the crazy, and thus preferences Katter’s Australian Party once and the Citizens Electoral Council Twice.  The Small Business Party and the Democrats appear twice each, and Rise Up Australia and the Lambie Network each appear once.  Amusingly, their how to vote card in the ACT is invalid – they preference five parties above the line, and also the Ungrouped Independents, which you aren’t allowed to do.

The main thing the parties preferenced have in common is a complete disregard for the environment, as befits a party founded by a mining magnate.  Though I can’t help feeling that the CEC, with their wild theories and love of grandiose infrastructure projects may actually be Clive Palmer’s natural home… that super fast mag-lev rail would fit right in with his dinosaur park and Titanic replica…

Previous reviews

Policies & Commentary

Right, so first, Clive Palmer is definitely trying to be Donald Trump here.  He delights in the cult of personality, in being as absurdly irritating as possible, with his annoying text messages, followed by his annoying promises to ban annoying text messages if elected.  He is the kind of wealthy that can throw millions at an election campaign, but declares bankruptcy and doesn’t pay his workers.  He also seems to rejoice in obnoxiously bad taste, if his extremely yellow website is anything to go by, and how can we ignore his Trumpian slogan – Make Australia Great?

Palmer appears to thrive on doing things so ridiculous that you can’t take him seriously, such as blatantly copying a Twisted Sister song for his theme song, and then claiming that no, both songs were just variations on O Come All Ye Faithful, so there was no copyright infringement involved.  He seems to take the view that any publicity is good publicity, which does not strike me as the mark of someone who you would want as a serious politician… but it worked for Trump, so God knows, anything is possible.

The United Australia Party website features Palmer, front and centre, making a thumbs-up in front of an Australian flag printed on a map of Australia.  Very patriotic.  On the front page, we have links to three news articles, two about the shortcomings of Bill Shorten, and one vowing to abolish the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Under About Us, we have a page for Achievements, a page for ‘Our Parliamentary Members’, one on the Australia Fund (for disaster relief), and one, hilariously, for ‘Our Prime Ministers’.  Because why yes, back in the 1930s and 1940s, there was a political party called the United Australia Party, which included such luminaries as Billy Hughes, Joseph Lyons and Robert Menzies.  The current UAP claims all three men as UAP Prime Ministers, despite the fact that this incarnation of the UAP has absolutely no relationship to the 1930s version, and also the fact that Billy Hughes was not a member of the party at the time he became Prime Minister, and indeed, the party was not even formed until after he left office.

I am fairly delighted by this, I have to say.  I’m not sure the Prime Ministers in question would be, however.

The UAP’s list of achievements makes them sound like they are responsible for every positively-spinnable thing that happened in parliament since 2013.  Examples include stopping the GP co-payment, freed children from detention, reduced electricity prices by 10% Australia-wide (when?  Our prices have only gone up in that period), abolished the carbon and mining tax, while saving the Climate Change and Renewable Energy Authorities, the Renewable Energy Target, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (an interesing combination), and protected jobs.  They also ‘stoped Campbell Newman’ and ‘Removed Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker’.  And they achieved

Electoral reform – pens instead of pencils.

a) I want my pen, because I only got a pencil at the last election, and b) how is this worth boasting about as an electoral reform?

Anyway, what you need to know is that every single thing that parliament has done since 2013 was done by the UAP!  It’s amazing stuff!

Ooh, including this *groundbreaking* piece of Electoral reform

I won’t go through the whole list, nor will I attempt to unravel the UAP’s role in any of this legislation, but it’s worth looking at what the UAP see as selling points.  I mean, they wouldn’t list these things as achievements if they didn’t think people would like them, and that tells us something useful.  They clearly think that the Australian public cares about jobs and the cost of living, doesn’t like tax, worries about the environment, and wants to keep things Australian-owned.  They also think we care about asylum seekers, social security and healthcare.

Basically, they seem to be trying to place themselves as socially progressive (but not too socially progressive – I see that they are staying well away from Marriage Equality thus far), nationalist, but in a mild, protectionist sort of way, and concerned about the average Australian’s access to low income support, medical care, and pensions.  And they are walking a tightrope on the environment.

They have a page for their National Policy, which is very brief, and a vision for Australia, which you have to download, and which is sadly not very brief.

I’ll start with the policies, of which there are four.

First, the UAP is against paid political lobbyists, which sounds reasonable.

Second, they want to revise the current refugee policy ‘to ensure Australia is protected and refugees are given opportunities for a better future and lifestyle’.  To give him credit, Palmer has always been reasonably humane on the subject of refugees – I seem to recall an early policy saying that the best way to stop the boats was to fly refugees straight here.  So I think this is a sincere concern.

Edited to add: OK, so he’s a bit inconsistent on this, too.  On the one hand, yes, he wants to fly refugees to Australia and said he would set up a legal fund for abused refugees.  On the other hand, he was also telling people that asylum seekers get more money than pensioners, which is a statement calculated to inspire disgruntlement.  And all of these things seem to go back several years, so heaven alone knows what he actually believes at this point.

Third, they want to create mineral wealth ‘to continuously contribute to the welfare of the Australian community’.  So, how has the welfare of the Australian community benefited from, say, nickel mining in Queensland, Clive?  And setting aside Palmer’s own dubious business practices, how is this a long-term strategy for Australia?  At some point, we will run out of things to mine.  And, I don’t want to be a spoilsport, but this does tend to undermine all that virtue you were claiming regarding supporting renewables and the environment.

Fourth, the UAP wants to win votes in Western Australia.  Sorry, I mean, the UAP wants to establish ‘a System where people create wealth in various parts of the country and for that wealth to flow back to the Community that generates the wealth. For example, if a particular region creates wealth, a significant percentage of that wealth should go back to the region.’

I wonder how we are defining wealth creation, though?  What about knowledge gain and the like?

OK, let us see what visions Clive Palmer has for Australia.

We start with his achievements again, and then move onto a preamble.

Men and Women of Australia,

Our country is known for its strength and our people known for their resilience. Today, we find our nation in need of both strength and resilience. The main issue facing Australia today is not just balancing our budget, but what Australians can do to regain Australia’s status as the lucky country. Sadly, the Liberal and Labor parties are devoid of ideas.

Ah, the call to a greater past!  Look, I agree that balancing our budget is not necessarily the top priority, but I’m not sure whether ‘the lucky country’ is necessarily the thing to aim for.  Anyway, Palmer thinks we need a revolution in the way we think, so perhaps he should be joining the SEP, because we know they like revolutions.

Oh, lord, and apparently the truth is going to set us free:

Government finances are different than the state of our economy; the truth you see will set you free.

I have some truths to share with Palmer about not using the phrase ‘different than’, which is a crime against grammar.

Palmer assures us that ‘we are all on Struggle Street together’, but it’s our responsibility to do what we can do to make everyone’s lives better.

Really, Palmer?  You are on ‘Struggle Street’?  I think not.

Anyway, Palmer then treats us to a course in economics.  I do not know enough about economics to know whether what he is saying makes sense, but given how his own finances have been over the years, I strongly question his capacity to advise others on how to run a business.  He does want to make company tax an annual rather than a quarterly thing, though, because he reckons that if companies hold onto that money for longer, they can reinvest it to everyone’s benefit.

Palmer wants to make the first $10,000 paid on a home loan each year to be tax deductible, which is a surprisingly non-terrible idea.  We do have a theme here that when people have more money to spend, they will spend it, and that this benefits the economy, and surprisingly, I think he’s actually right about that.

He wants to raise the aged care pension by $150 per fortnight, and put more money into health and into education.  He does not mention Newstart or the Disability Pension, however.

Oh dear, and he wants to stop the government from driving businesses into bankruptcy, because it’s so terrible, what happens to the employees of businesses when they fail.

Clive. Mate.  Really?

He thinks we need to have a ‘Chapter 11’ like in the US, which allows a debtor to keep possession of their business and restructure it, because this gives better outcomes to employees.  Conveniently, it also protects the debtor for litigation.  I don’t understand enough about bankruptcy or company law to comment on this, so I’m going to link to the Wikipedia article on it.  I have to say, I am deeply suspicious of Palmer’s motives in suggesting this, given his conflict of interest.  And the fact that… he doesn’t seem to be very interested in paying Queensland Nickel employees out, despite clearly having enough money to run a pretty fancy political campaign.

Palmer wants to decentralise Australia and improve services to the regions, and he wants to government to support Australian industries.  He wants a manufacturing industry.  And he wants unity and an end to class warfare.

We are then treated to a lot of graphs about spending, economic freedom, labour costs, unemployment, and social expenditure, comparing us to lots of other countries.

He draws no conclusions from these graphs.  I do, though.  I particularly draw the conclusion that we are *massively* underspending on pensions and social services.

And then we get a set of his speeches.  I’m not sure I can take much more of this, to be honest – it is relentlessly tedious.  Let’s see – he doesn’t like increases to taxation.  He does believe in free university education, bless him, he is fond of Malcolm Fraser and multiculturalism, and…

Wait, now we have a list of questions from Question Time, and I am wondering: are we in fact reviewing the entirety of Clive Palmer’s output since he was elected in 2013?  Because if so, these 28 pages suddenly seem like… not a lot of work for five and a bit years.

And then we end with that list of achievements again.

Oh boy.

So I think we can say that Palmer is going to be reasonably good on education and on refugees.  I don’t think he can be trusted on the environment.  I think he probably does care about social welfare and the cost of living and so forth, in a theoretical sense, but I’m not sure he really gets it, or acts usefully on it. I have no idea about his economic policy.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

This was a really difficult choice.  I was seriously tempted by Papa Pingouin, because there is just something about the guy in the penguin suit that reminds me irresistibly of Clive Palmer.  But I think this is such a cult of personality that we have to go with this brilliant effort from Moldova a few years ago.

You see it’s all about me
The servants and the king
I’m the ruler of the world

Also, he does want Australia to be the lucky country again.  So lucky.

7 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet the United Australia Party

  1. Pens? Really? I know it’s a small thing to focus on, but here is what the current AEC FAQ says on the matter:

    “The provision of pencils in polling booths is a requirement of section 206 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918. There is, however nothing to prevent an elector from marking his or her ballot paper with a pen if they so wish. The AEC has found from experience that pencils are the most reliable implements for marking ballot papers. Pencils are practical because they don’t run out and the polling staff check and sharpen pencils as necessary throughout election day. Pencils can be stored between elections and they work better in tropical areas. The security of your vote is guaranteed as the storage and counting of ballots is tightly scrutinised.”

    That’s not really the same thing as achieving electoral form to replace pencils with pens…

  2. “Palmer wants to make the first $10,000 paid on a home loan each year to be tax deductible, which is a surprisingly non-terrible idea.”

    Hard dis-agree. If this policy were restricted to first home buyers only, that would be one thing, but otherwise, it’s just going to keep the real estate market as overheated as it currently is.

    • Fair enough. I read it as being for people paying for the home that they were living in, only, and it’s a small enough deduction ($2,500, generally) that it would be unlikely to have much impact on the housing market. It’s all part of the general goal of getting more spending money into the pockets of people who will spend it and keep the economy going. But some sort of means testing would improve this no end.

  3. Thank you very much for this informative post. I just wrote a small blog regarding the use of advertising from the UAP to winning the election. If you could check it out and let me know what you think that would be great 🙂

    • Hi Levine,

      Thank you for your comment, and for directing me to your carefully researched post on Palmer’s election financing. I agree that Palmer’s extraordinary levels of advertising funding are alarming, and we probably need to be looking at laws on how much money can be spent on political campaigns in Australia. It’s not a good precedent.

      Having said that… I’m a little more optimistic than you are regarding the likely outcome of this. I may be mis-remembering, but I’m pretty sure that Palmer laid out a similarly huge amount on advertising during his first election campaign, back in 2013. It didn’t work particularly well then, not least because he clearly didn’t screen his candidates very well. With even more candidates running now, I don’t think the outcome is going to be a lot more rewarding for him. Also, I think the Queensland Nickel thing might come back to bite him. I can’t possibly be the only person wondering why he can afford $50M for advertising when he can’t afford to pay his workers!

      Catherine

      • Thank you for taking the time to read my article and for your response. It will be very interesting to see what impact the advertising will have, and if it will be worth it or not. I guess we will find out on May 18th.

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