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Palmer's likely Liberal boost, but Anning booted

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Clive Palmer’s party is bullish about winning up to six Senate seats, with a likely Liberal preference deal boosting the controversial businessman’s chances of re-entering federal parliament.

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The Liberal Party is reportedly close to finalising a deal with Mr Palmer’s United Australia Party, which could help him return to federal parliament after the May 18 election.

United Australia Party senator Brian Burston said he was not privy to preference negotiations but wanted to see the Liberals put ahead of Labor on how-to-vote cards.

He said the party’s internal polling showed they were on track to win as many as six Senate spots, which would guarantee Mr Palmer’s return to Canberra, as well as lower house seats.

“I think we may pick up one or two Queensland seats, perhaps a couple in New South Wales but certainly we’ll pick up a handful of Senate seats on our polling,” Burston told ABC Radio National.

Polling by left-leaning think tank The Australia Institute shows the party will need to increase its support to win a single upper house seat.

But if UAP’s standing improves it could be in a position to pick up one upper house place in Queensland, where Palmer is heading up the Senate ticket, and Victoria.

Earlier this week, a Newspoll showed the party had support ranging from five to 14 per cent across four marginal electorates, although individual seat polls are notoriously unreliable.

“Newspoll is understated as far as our polling is concerned. Our polling is very scientific,” Buston said.

Former West Australian Liberal premier Colin Barnett believes his party should avoid doing a preference deal with Palmer.

“The consequence will be maybe in some country areas, the Liberal Party will hold on to some seats but in other areas, particularly metropolitan cities, there is a danger of a backlash,” he told ABC radio.

But Cabinet minister and WA senator Michaelia Cash said if the Liberals decided to do a preference deal with Mr Palmer she would back it.

“The party makes the decisions to ensure that it can maximise its vote,” she told the ABC.

Burston predicted a more conservative Senate make-up after the May 18 election, but if Labor wins government it should be given a chance to legislate its agenda “within reason”.

“I think they should have a honeymoon period if they’re elected to government,” the former One Nation senator said.

Labor has dismissed reports a senior union figure was sent to negotiate preferences with Mr Palmer.

“Not once have we been talking to Clive Palmer about preferences because we understand it’s a recipe for chaos,” senior opposition frontbencher Anthony Albanese told Nine’s Today program.

Liberal campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham accused Labor of being comfortable to “cuddle up” to the Greens.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party will put far-right senator Fraser Anning’s party last on how-to-vote cards in almost every electorate across Australia.

Senior cabinet minister Mathias Cormann said Anning’s Conservative Nationals would be last except in seats which had “even worse” candidates running like white supremacist Jim Saleam.

“Other than that Fraser Anning is last in all of our seats,” Cormann told Sky News.

-AAP

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