Liberal candidates in key seats will benefit from Clive Palmer’s preferences, with his United Australia Party recommending voters put the Liberal Party second or third place on their ballot papers in several close contests.
The development, which was evident on several how-to-vote cards collected by the and as pre-polling opened on Monday, came despite Palmer saying just weeks ago that his party would urge voters to put the major parties “last”.
A federal Liberal Party campaign spokesman said: “There have been no deals with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party”.
UAP leader Craig Kelly said he had “no discussion whatsoever” with the Liberals. He said the party was recommending voters avoid preferencing Labor, Liberal or the Greens in the Senate, but in the lower house its how-to-votes varied on a seat-by-seat basis.
In the Sydney seat of Mackellar, Liberal MP Jason Falinski and UAP candidate Christopher Ball have put each other in second place on their respective how-to-vote cards.
In Wentworth, UAP candidate Natalie Dumer has recommended voters put Liberal MP Dave Sharma third, after the Liberal Democrats, while Sharma has put Dumer second.
In Warringah, the UAP has recommended voters preference One Nation second and the Liberals’ controversial candidate Katherine Deves third. It has put incumbent independent MP Zali Steggall sixth and the Greens last.
Deves has urged voters to put the UAP second and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation third. She has put Labor fourth, the Animal Justice Party fifth, the Greens sixth and Steggall last. A NSW Liberal Party spokesman declined to comment on Deves’ preferences.
In Melbourne’s ultra-marginal seat of Chisholm, a contest between Liberal and Labor, the UAP candidate has urged voters to put Liberal MP Gladys Liu in third place and the Labor candidate in 11th place out of 12.
In Kooyong, where Treasurer Josh Frydenberg faces a tough challenge from independent Monique Ryan, the UAP has put Frydenberg sixth, Ryan eighth and Labor’s Peter Lynch 10th in a field of 11.
The UAP is also preferencing the Liberal Party ahead of Labor in the important Victorian seats of Corangamite (held by Labor) and Casey (held by the Liberal Party).
But not all Liberals in tight contests with so-called “teal” independents are swapping preferences with UAP candidates. In North Sydney, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman has urged voters to put UAP candidate Robert Nalbandian in eighth position, behind Labor’s Catherine Renshaw (fourth) and independent Kylea Tink (sixth).
Zimmerman has put the vaccine-sceptical “Informed Medical Options Party” in ninth place and One Nation last. The UAP did not have North Sydney how-to-vote cards at the Chatswood pre-polling centre on Monday, but Kelly said Zimmerman was “dead last”.
For months, the United Australia Party’s giant yellow billboards have told voters the major parties cannot be trusted again because of COVID-19 lockdowns.
Speaking at the National Press Club in early April, Palmer said his anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine mandate party would place Labor, the Liberals and the Greens “last” on its how-to-vote cards.
On Monday, Kelly told the and the UAP had put the Liberals last in many seats, including Scott Morrison’s electorate of Cook and David Coleman’s seat of Banks. In Western Australia, both Labor and the Liberal Party have put the UAP at the bottom of their how-to-vote cards.
But “the reality is the other minor parties in the House of Representatives are all going to get knocked out”, he said.
In his own seat of Hughes, Kelly has put One Nation second, the Liberals third and Climate 200-backed independent Georgia Steele sixth.
Preferences were discussed at a candidate forum on Sunday night hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, which featured Sharma, independent candidate for Wentworth Allegra Spender and Labor MP for Kingsford-Smith Matt Thistlethwaite.
The moderator said some questioners were concerned Sharma had put the UAP second on his how-to-vote card. Sharma noted it was highly unlikely his preferences would be distributed but, in any case, “preferencing someone does not amount to an endorsement of their policies”.
“I wish we had an optional preferential system federally. I’d be happy just to say, ‘Vote one [for] me and don’t vote for anyone else’,” Sharma said.
Falinski, the Mackellar MP, told the : “We do not comment on preferences. However, I think this does demonstrate that compulsory preferential systems leave a lot to be desired compared to optional preferential systems.”
How-to-vote cards are only recommendations. Voters are always free to number the candidates on their ballot paper as they wish. The “teal” independents such as Steggall, Spender, Tink and Sophie Scamps in Mackellar are not recommending preferences on their how-to-vote cards.
The April 30 Resolve Political Monitor, conducted for the and by Resolve Strategic, gave the UAP a national primary vote of 5 per cent. Although that would not be evenly distributed, the party’s preferences could still prove crucial in tight contests.
Palmer spent $80 million on the 2019 campaign and has pledged to spend even more this time.
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( Information from smh.com.au was used in this report. To Read More, click here )