Australia

Former Queensland Nickel employee slams potential Liberal-Palmer preference deal

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison says preference deals with Clive Palmer's United Australia Party are a matter for the party executive, but says no policy deals have been done with minor parties.

Jacob Fishwick dedicated five years of his life to Queensland Nickel, only to be handed a redundancy notice without warning.

“It was like a five minute warning, here's your letter, see you later," he told SBS News.

“I've got a mortgage, car repayments, all the same bills everyone else has, I've got two kids, got child support to pay ... Everything goes down when you have no income flowing in.”

Former Queensland Nickel worker Jacob Fishwick said he would not vote Liberal if they decide to preference Clive Palmer's United Australia Party.
Former Queensland Nickel worker Jacob Fishwick said he would not vote Liberal if they decide to preference Clive Palmer's United Australia Party.
SBS News

Despite being paid a redundancy, he said the company still owes him $10,000.

Clive Palmer, the owner of Queensland Nickel, has so far spent $33.7 million dollars on political advertising, spruiking his United Australia Party (UAP) in the upcoming federal election – something that frustrates Mr Fishwick.

“It doesn't make you feel any good at all, just makes you feel like you're another number in his rise to fame so to speak.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison attempted to distance himself from a likely preference swap between the Liberal Party and Mr Palmer's UAP, declaring no "policy deals" had been done with minor parties.

Mr Fishwick said Queensland Nickel owes him $10,000.
Mr Fishwick said Queensland Nickel owes him $10,000.
SBS News

Mr Fishwick said that if the Liberal National Party does a deal with UAP, they won’t have his vote.

“I’d be more likely to vote for Micky Mouse than them," he said. “Why are they going to get in bed with a bad businessman like that?"

“I know what he's done to us [Queensland Nickel workers], so will he do the same to the country?”

The reported preference deal, expected to be announced on Monday, would see the Liberals put UAE second or above Labor on its how-to-vote cards. 

Businessman Clive Palmer
Clive Palmer's promised payment to workers laid off from his nickel refinery will happen after polls.
AAP

That would be a huge boost to Mr Palmer's chances of being elected as a Queensland senator and helps the Coalition in several close contests in lower house seats in the state. 

Mr Morrison refused to rule out or confirm the deal as he resumed campaigning in Townsville where Mr Palmer's nickel refinery collapsed, costing hundreds of miners their jobs. 

"Let me just say there has been no policy deals done with minor parties. There were discussions about where preferences go and Clive Palmer made the point himself, he believes that Labor's tax policy would be devastating for Australia's economy," Mr Morrison told reporters. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a press conference after visiting RGM Maintenance in Darwin, Wednesday, April 24, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says preference deals are a matter for the party executive.
AAP

'We'll pick up seats'

Mr Palmer's party is confident of winning up to six Senate seats and several lower house seats, despite independent polling suggesting one Senate seat is more realistic. 

The UAP's only member of Parliament Brian Burston, who defected from One Nation, said he wasn't privy to the negotiations but would support preferencing the Liberals over Labor. 

"Because of the proposed changes to the taxation system by Labor penalising those that have worked hard during their life and are on a higher income level at the moment," told ABC radio Friday morning.

Former One Nation Senator Brian Burston and Clive Palmer (R).
Brian Burston says he's not privvy to the preference negotiations between Clive Palmer and the Liberals.
AAP

Senator Burston said the party's internal polling indicated they could pick up six Senate 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," he said.

Support for Mr Palmer's party had dropped off as the controversial businessman faced criticism for failing to pay out workers. But a massive advertising blitz has revived the party's electoral fortunes. 

"I don't think we're buying votes, we're just putting in the minds of Australians our policies and what we hope to do for Australia," Senator Burston said.  

'Appalling' record

Former West Australian Liberal Premier Colin Barnett has warned of a backlash from metropolitan voters if the federal party does a preference deal with Mr Palmer.

Mr Barnett said a majority of voters believed the Queensland Senate hopeful was unsuitable to sit in any parliament and his record in public affairs as "appalling".

A file image of former WA premier Colin Barnett
Colin Barnett has warned the Liberal Party a deal with Clive Palmer could do more harm than good.
AAP

"Many Liberal supporters - soft or swinging supporters - will react adversely towards any sort of deal Palmer," he told ABC radio on Friday.

"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."

Western Australian Liberal Senator Michaelia Cash said she would back a Liberal deal with Mr Palmer.

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

She said how-to-vote cards were a matter for state branches but urged voters to give the Liberals their first preference.

Mr Barnett also warned if Mr Palmer held sway in the new parliament he could damage Australia's relationship with China.

"There's a big economic trade risk if Clive Palmer is seen by the Chinese to have undue influence over Australian politics," he said.

Mr Palmer has a checkered relationship with China, including sustained criticism of the regime and legal battles with state-owned companies.

Additional reporting by AAP

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