The prime minister says Clive Palmer will not influence the Liberal Party’s policies, as it is reportedly close to finalising a preference deal with him.
Scott Morrison has stressed his government won’t be hatching policy plans with controversial businessman Clive Palmer, regardless of whether it mints a preference deal with his political party.
But Labor insists the coalition must have promised Palmer something to have earned his favour.
The prime minister says Australians will learn within days about any preference deals the Liberals have struck, once they have been settled.
Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) is expected to form an agreement with the Liberals, which could boost his chances of returning to federal parliament after the May 18 election. The UAP has already spent more than $30 million on election advertising.
That comes as the businessman remains under fire for the collapse of his Queensland nickel refinery in 2016, after which the workers went without $7 million in workers’ entitlements.
Morrison noted he and Palmer, who is running as a Senate candidate in Queensland, share the view that a Labor government led by Bill Shorten would damage the economy.
“There is quite a bit we don’t agree on at all, but he makes a good point when he says that,” the prime minister told reporters in Townsville on Friday.
But the leader stressed the Liberal-Nationals have made no “policy deals” with minor parties such as UAP.
“There has been no discussion with the minor parties on policy. Absolutely none.”
Labor leader Bill Shorten argues that he believes the coalition must have promised Palmer something in exchange for a good spot on their “how to vote” cards.
Senior Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said Australians should not forget the “chaos” that evolved from Palmer being elected to parliament in 2013.
Labor Fronted Me About Preferences: Clive
Cabinet minister Mathias Cormann earlier accused Labor of being “high and mighty” about deals with UAP, noting media reports and Clive’s own claims that a senator and senior union heavyweight had negotiated with him about how-to-vote cards.
“We are doing everything we can to maximise the voting support across seats across Australia—as the Labor Party is doing,” the senator told Sky News on Friday.
But Labor has dismissed suggestions that a senior union figure had been sent to negotiate preferences with Palmer.
“There’ve been no formal negotiations,” Shorten said.
“That’s just not true. I had Senator (Anthony) Chisholm approach me while I was down for the budget in parliament sitting on the floor. He got up. It’s all recorded, he came over to see me,” Palmer told reporters outside a Brisbane court on Friday.
“He called me on Wednesday when he was with Bill Shorten in central Queensland and he said was it too late to do preferences. It’s not true that I wasn’t approached by the ALP.”
United Australia Party senator Brian Burston told the ABC that internal polling showed the UAP is on track to win as many as six Senate spots, which would guarantee Palmer’s return to Canberra. The UAP could also pick up some lower house seats.
By Marnie Banger and Matt Coughlan