/Palmer looms large on campaign trail as parties seek PUP preferences

Palmer looms large on campaign trail as parties seek PUP preferences

Updated

April 24, 2019 19:32:47

Hate turned to love as a Liberal candidate had to confront historical comments about John Howard when the former prime minister arrived in town to help woo marginal voters.

The NSW seat of Gilmore is among the most hotly contested in the federal election and all stops are being pulled out in the parties’ efforts to claim it.

With the former PM called in to help, the incumbent kept his attention in the north, eyeing off two Northern Territory seats he’s keen to collect.

The Opposition Leader, meanwhile, continued his efforts walking an Adani tightrope, eager to shore up Queensland votes while not alienating his southern strategy.

Labor facing Adani questions

Forget Game of Thrones, there’s only one king of the north and he lives nowhere near Westeros.

As Bill Shorten hit the pavement for a morning run in Townsville, there beside him was NRL legend Johnathan Thurston.

It’s arguably the biggest play Mr Shorten has made in his marginal seat sand bagging efforts to date.

Labor’s Cathy O’Toole won the Townsville seat of Herbert, thanks to One Nation preferences, by 37 votes in 2016, making it the most marginal seat in the country.

And high-profile support from Thurston will only go some way towards the party’s efforts to convince voters to put her back in again.

Labor’s support for Adani has been haunting its central and northern Queensland candidates all campaign.

One party member has said there would be a review of approvals, another has said there might be review and a third said “hand on heart” there wouldn’t be a review if Labor wins power.

“I’ve made it clear that we have no plans to review it. Our position is that the deals need to stack up commercially,” Mr Shorten said today.

“We will be guided by the best science. I am going to implement the law of the land, no more, no less and we’re not going to engage in sovereign risk.”

Shorten clarifies tax cut comments

Mr Shorten also had to clean up comments he’d made a day earlier when he suggested a Labor government would consider tax breaks for high-income earners.

While in Gladstone, which is based in an ultra-marginal LNP seat Labor hopes to pick up, the Opposition Leader was approached by a union worker at a coal terminal.

“They earn $250,000 because they work nights,” the man told Mr Shorten.

He was wanting to know how the workers would be affected by Labor’s tax plans.

“Well, we’re going to look at that,” Mr Shorten said.

That appeared in contrast to Labor’s plan to reinstate a 2 per cent tax increase on people earning more than $180,000.

“He didn’t tell [the worker] that on the first of July, he was going to increase his taxes,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“Even today he was pretending he was going to lower their taxes.”

When asked if he should have been more upfront with the workers, Mr Shorten said Labor’s levy would be temporary.

“We will take off the budget repair levy in 2022-23,” Mr Shorten said.

“Beyond that, we’ve said that when we can afford to lower income taxes in this country we will.”

Mr Shorten will now turn his attention back to the Top End after three days in central and north Queensland.

Morrison faces questions over Palmer deals

For the second day in a row, Mr Morrison dodged questions over preference deals with Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party.

The mining magnate turned Senate aspirant is experiencing a resurgence in the polls.

That’s despite Commonwealth efforts to pursue Mr Palmer and his companies after the collapse of his Queensland Nickel Refinery in the state’s north.

Political parties are sorting out preferences for their how-to-vote cards ahead of early voting beginning on Monday.

Labor is keen to secure United Australia Party preferences in the handful of Queensland seats it’s either targeting or desperate to retain.

Mr Morrison refused to rule out a deal with Mr Palmer, insisting it was a matter for party officials.

He was also unwilling to discuss Mr Palmer’s business history.

But it’s a topic that’s set to follow the Prime Minister in the coming days.

He’s expected to head to Townsville today, where 800 people lost their jobs from the demise of Mr Palmer’s company in 2016.

Mr Palmer has said he didn’t owe any money to cover the entitlements of workers, but he has since announced plans to pay back any outstanding funds.

The seats shaping the election

Liberals reunite Howard and Mundine

The NSW seat of Gilmore is one of the rare seats that has Liberals, Nationals and Labor all optimistic they can win it.

It’s a vacant seat thanks to Liberal Ann Sudmalis’s decision to quit politics, citing bullying and branch stacking.

Mr Morrison hand-picked former Labor Party president Warren Mundine after a messy pre-selection process.

He’s facing National Katrina Hodgkinson, a former state MP, and Labor’s Fiona Phillips in a seat the Liberals hold by 0.7 per cent.

It’s a battle that’s fast going from messy to outright dirty.

Ms Sudmalis, still angry at her treatment within the party, last night issued a provocative media release to endorse Ms Hodgkinson.

But that’s not the only unlikely pairing in this contest.

In 2007, Mr Mundine said he hated then-prime minister John Howard in a newspaper editorial. At the time, Mr Howard called Mr Mundine juvenile.

Twelve years later the two men found themselves campaigning alongside each other as the Liberals pull out all the stops to win Gilmore.

Today, they insist, they have nothing but respect for each and even appeared to have forgotten their previous battles.

Parties reaching common ground

There was one thing the major parties managed to agree about today — lobby group GetUp!.

It was forced to pull a political ad mocking former prime minister Tony Abbott’s stance on climate change.

The video depicts a lifesaver as Mr Abbott refusing to help a drowning swimmer.

It was condemned as being in poor taste by all the major parties, and attracted criticism from the Royal Life Saving Society.

The left-wing activist group GetUp! is seeking to oust Mr Abbott and his fellow Liberals Peter Dutton, Christian Porter, Greg Hunt, Kevin Andrews and Nicolle Flint.

Those efforts will be put to the test when voters have their say in 24 days.

Topics:

government-and-politics,

federal-elections,

clive-palmer,

bill-shorten,

scott-morrison,

howard-john-winston,

australia

First posted

April 24, 2019 18:51:03