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Coalition defends Palmer "least worst" SA preference deal

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Labor has blasted a Coalition preference deal to place Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party in second position on its Senate how-to-vote cards in South Australia at the May 18 election.

 

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The Coalition defended the deal to boost the Queensland billionaire, saying it was a “least worst” alternative option than other parties and independents, such as Centre Alliance.

“Sometimes it feels like you are allocating to the least worst out of a whole bad bunch of alternatives,” coalition campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham told The Advertiser.

“We have problems with the policies and the positions that every other political party holds – ultimately we don’t endorse any of the rest of them.”

SA Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas called on the state Liberal Party to reverse the federal Coalition decision, saying Palmer’s UAP recently announced it would abolish the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and remove water restrictions which benefited South Australia.

“The Marshall Liberal Government undermined the Royal Commission at every turn – now they are giving preferences to a party that plans to abolish the Murray-Darling Basin Plan altogether,” he said.

“Steven Marshall must stand up for South Australia and demand that the Liberals abandon their decision to give preferences to Clive Palmer.”

Labor frontbencher Jim Chalmers said the Prime Minister had legitimised somebody who could spend $50 million to spend on ads, but not the money owed to former workers of his Queensland Nickel refinery.

Palmer has shrugged off the attacks by Labor, which has called him a “tosser” and “con man” over the preference deal.

“Let’s face it, I’m a bad person. I’m a bad person,” he sarcastically told Nine’s Today Show.

“Who cares about me? We care about this country and the policies we need to get done.”

Despite reports Labor officials informally met with Palmer to discuss trading vote preferences, frontbenchers such as Anthony Albanese have been upfront about what they think of him in recent days.

Among Labor’s complaints is that Palmer didn’t pay $7 million in workers’ entitlements after his Queensland nickel refinery collapsed in 2016, while spending more than $30 million on election advertising.

“Scott Morrison had a choice between standing up for ripped off workers or sucking up to a tosser who ripped them off and he chose the tosser – he chose Clive Palmer,” Albanese said on Friday.

Palmer said $7 million will be available to the workers of the refinery through a trust managed by a solicitor from Tuesday.

The “fake news” of personal attacks should stop, he argued.

But he stressed attacks against him haven’t left him rattled.

“For too long, people have pandered to people on the media and the news and worrying what they think, like and how they appeal,” he said.

“My wealth is $4,000 million. Do you think I give a stuff about you personally think or anyone else? I care about this country.”

The United Australia Party has its sights set on forming government.

“Why do you think we’re standing in 151 seats across this nation? Because we intend to win.”

The Coalition has been given a further boost, with Pauline Hanson putting Labor last on One Nation how-to-vote cards in four critical seats.

Senator Hanson has significantly lifted the Liberals’ chances of retaining four seats, including Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s Queensland seat of Dickson.

“Peter Dutton has been one of the toughest ministers on border security and has worked constructively behind the scenes with my office on matters of national security,” she told the Courier-Mail on Monday.

One Nation preferences could also save Attorney-General Christian Porter and Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie and Luke Howard.

Hanson said debate around the Adani coal mine had influenced her thinking.

“Bill Shorten and Labor have made it very clear that the majority of their elected members want to shut down our coal industry in Queensland and NSW which will leave tens of thousands of workers out of jobs,” she said.

“I won’t support him on that decision.”

In 2016, One Nation placed sitting MPs last, contributing to the LNP losing the Queensland seats of Herbert and Longman.

Labor also hit out over the One Nation arrangement.

“The result of Morrison’s dirty deal with extreme right-wing parties in this country to cling to power is that we would have a Morrison-Palmer-Hanson three-ring circus of cuts and chaos,”  Chalmers told ABC Radio.

“The Australian people should think very carefully before they endorse that.”

InDaily with AAP

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