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Clive Palmer’s campaign will have a body count

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Clive Palmer has been heavily criticised for spreading COVID-19 misinformation (Screenshot via YouTube)

Clive Palmer is launching another election campaign of misinformation and unwanted text messages, this time posing an even bigger danger, writes Andrew P Street.

CAN YOU SMELL IT, dear reader? That faint but unmistakably putrid odour of dank memes and moral decay? It can only be one of two things: a truck full of rotting fish has crashed into the abandoned vomit factory, or Clive Palmer’s political grift is back on.

Unfortunately, it’s the latter.

The United Australia Party are already gearing up for the coming election as Palmer attempts to recapture the same triumph as 2019, where he spent $83 million to secure zero seats in either house. However, it contributed to the skin-of-the-teeth return of the coal-friendly Morrison Government who celebrated their win by immediately opening the Galilee Basin for coal mining.

In case you’ve gratefully wiped the UAP from your brain, it was invented after the Palmer United Party’s ignominious collapse in 2016 where Palmer’s brief era of only occasionally turning up in Parliament ended with him not even bothering to contest his seat of Fairfax and all but one of his senators quitting the Party.

UAP continues to pretend that it’s the continuation of the ancient Party of the same name that later morphed into the Liberal Party and was the original home of Robert Menzies. And sure, it’s a strange move given that Menzies fans already have a party available to them that can actually hold government, but it at least should remind voters of the Party’s ties to the Liberals.

Palmer is a former member of the Queensland Liberals (now the Liberal-National Party of Queensland) who huffily quit in 2012 after clashing with then-premier Campbell Newman, who similarly quit and is now running for the Liberal Democrats. Even sole Palmer United stalwart Dio Wang promptly joined the WA Liberals when P.U.P. finally expired by the side of the road.

So the claim that UAP is somehow philosophically separate to the Liberals is questionable at best and the whole “you can never trust Labor or the Liberals again” schtick can rightly be assumed to be directed rather more pointedly at Labor leader Anthony Albanese than Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

And now that he’s added the intellectual heft of NSW MP and former Liberal Craig Kelly to the team – thereby neatly sidestepping the new requirements of parties to have significant membership – UAP are set to bring their unique form of discord and whitenating to yet another federal campaign.

Already, the newspaper ads and unwanted text messages have begun and shortly, there’ll be spurious legal threats against any publication who declines to publish his advertisements on the ground that they’re denying his freedom of political speech.

And that’s a problem because what he’s saying is, to use a technical term, dangerous horseshit.

Palmer has spent much of the pandemic demanding that borders open, particularly to WA, and declaring that COVID-19 vaccines killed half the animals used in clinical trials — a claim which, predictably, is predicated on zero evidence beyond right-wing U.S. memes.

And, predictably, like so many of the proud vaccine-sceptic public mouthpieces, he’s suspiciously cagey about whether or not he’s had the jab himself, despite pushing discredited quack remedies and vitamin cures and threatening lawsuits against the WA Government’s health advice — a move which WA Premier Mark McGowan accurately praised as “a deranged approach”

So far, so Palmer. The problem is that this time around, what Palmer is peddling isn’t merely wrong — now, it’s actively dangerous.

Sure, Labor wasn’t remotely going to introduce a death tax last time around despite Palmer’s blanket advertising campaign – indeed, not only was it not policy but the Party had specifically ruled it out – but that lie was just, well, a lie.

It had consequences, of course, in that it helped usher in the cursed political epoch we currently inhabit, but at least one could argue that saying Labor was going to do something they were explicitly not doing wasn’t directly harmful to people’s health.

However, this time around, Palmer is pushing his anti-lockdown, anti-mask, something-something freedom agenda with a side order of discredited medical advice recommending drugs of which he coincidentally owns a large and currently-unprofitable stockpile.

To be clear, anything that perpetuates the current cycle of explosive COVID-19 case numbers, under-resourced hospitals and rolling lockdowns is a bad thing. Anything which encourages people to refuse to trust the medical experts and assume that someone with a history of making dubious claims is giving sane health advice is an even more terrible thing.

And Queensland is already going to be a battleground for angry and irresponsible candidates with a questionable grasp of reality. One Nation is staking out opposition to masks and vaccine passports as their only escape from obscurity (with Pauline Hanson and her henchman-slash-NRA shill James Ashby attending a Queensland rally over the weekend). And the aforementioned Campbell Newman is optimistic that the electoral affection he gained as a much-criticised and roundly defeated one-term Premier will elevate him to the Federal Senate.

But Palmer’s deep pockets will get the COVIDiot message to the broadsheets and main roads of Australia, all with the ultimate aim of preventing a Labor government (or, in his darkest nightmares, a Labor government with the Greens in the balance of power in the Senate) undercutting his lucrative coal empire by doing literally anything about climate change.

And if that means helping prevent public policy stopping the march of a deadly virus, then hey — you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few health restrictions.

And Palmer might be buying up the ad space and billboards this election, but it’s ordinary Australians – especially those who heed his vaccine-sceptical rhetoric – who will pay the ultimate price.

Andrew P Street is an Adelaide-based, Sydney-built journalist, author, editor and broadcaster and an Independent Australia columnist. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewPStreet.

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