The polling focused on four pivotal seats, Herbert (Queensland), Lindsay (NSW), Deakin (Victoria) and Pearce (Western Australia) and found that where the preferences from Palmer's United Australia Party flows could be crucial.

By Daniel Herborn


Posted on April 23, 2019

The polling, undertaken by Newspoll in four marginal seats for The Australian, suggests that Palmer could hold the balance of power in the Senate after the Australian election on 18 May.

The report suggests that members of the coalition are locked in talks with Palmer and his team in an attempt to secure his preferences.

The coalition may seek a preference deal with Palmer

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has previously indicated he is open to striking a preference deal with Palmer. The alliance would be a remarkable about face after Palmer compared Morrison to Adolf Hitler two years when the latter criticised his business dealings.

“We’ll have the discussions as we do with many parties, we’ll come to a view,” Morrison told reporters in Adelaide.

“But ultimately, at the end of the day Australians will decide who the next prime minister will be.”

With early voting beginning as early as 29 April, parties do not have long to finalise their how-to-vote cards.

New poll: Palmer now has between 4% and 15% support in four marginal seats

Palmer’s surge in popularity and relevance came after a A$30 million spending spree on advertising. Author and columnist Troy Bramston said the apparent money-fuelled rise of Palmer came despite his lack of “credibility and integrity” and showed candidates could simply buy political support if they are wealthy enough.

Forbes recently listed Palmer as the 20th most wealthy Australian. It calculated his net worth at A$1.8 billion.

His United Australia Party has embraced populism and campaigned with the Trump-aping ‘Make Australia Great’ slogan, though its policy platform is not entirely predictable. In its own words, the party is concerned with creating mineral wealth, revising Australia’s refugee policy and cracking down on political lobbying.

The party has vowed to slash income tax and abolish the Fringe Benefits Tax if elected. It also wants the pension to be raised and higher education to be free for Australians. Another key policy position is the establishment of an emissions trading scheme, albeit only when other countries have also adopted such a scheme.

Palmer lapping major parties in campaign spending

Some observers have criticised Palmer for spending millions on his election campaign while he still owes a eight-figure sum in staff entitlements to those that worked at his failed nickel refinery. On 15 April, he announced that he had “decided… (to) pay out all outstanding amounts in workers’ entitlements” that was owed by the company, Queensland Nickel.

Palmer has spent more than the two major parties and the Green party combined in the campaign. Dr. Glen Kefford, senior lecturer in politics, Macquarie University, told the ABC that the businessman’s huge spending seemed to be helping him overcome public resentment which stems from him owing former staffers from Queensland Nickel millions. “There would be a lot of people upset with Palmer because of what’s happened with Queensland Nickel,” he said.

Even if support for the United Australia Party recedes, it is highly likely some minor party Senators will continue to hold an outsized influence after the election. One Nation’s Paul Hanson, Cory Bernardi (The Australian Conservatives) and two Centre Alliance representatives, Stirling Griff and Rex Patrick, are all in parliament until 2022 after winning seats in 2016.

Another six minor party members and six Greens are up for re-election.

Labor remain a short-priced favourite with bookmakers to win the election. The latest Newspoll projects Labor to win 82 seats ahead of the Coalition with 63 and minor parties with a total of seven seats. Despite this, Labor leader Bill Shorten has consistently trailed Morrison as preferred Prime Minister.