HomeUncategorizedWhat will Palmer’s $2m give the No Camp, and cost Australian voters?

What will Palmer’s $2m give the No Camp, and cost Australian voters?

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The only way mining billionaire Clive Palmer’s $2 million cash splash for the No camp will be effective is if he is nowhere near the allocation of the spend, a global expert on online politics says.

Palmer told The Australian he was spending the money “to put our point of view forward”, particularly targeting the must-win states of Tasmania and South Australia, where it’s “cheaper to spend advertising”. Palmer is Australia’s fifth richest person.

The funds will come via Palmer’s company Mineralogy rather than the United Australia Party (UAP) he founded and will be spent during the final week before Australians vote in the Voice to Parliament referendum.

If it was as straightforward as just throwing wads of cash into advertising, Ed Coper, director of strategy group Populares scoffs, then “Clive Palmer would have become prime minister in 2022”.

Coper, who has given advice about misinformation to both the government’s referendum working group and the Yes campaign, tells Crikey $2 million is enough to have some sort of impact in the smaller states — as long as it’s used to target the right audience with messages that work.

“Palmer, who notoriously makes his own ads, did neither of these things last time, so if he controls this spend it won’t have an impact,” he says.

Palmer’s last-minute spend is chump change compared to the infamous $117 million he spent installing just one senator — the UAP’s Ralph Babet — into Parliament at the 2022 federal election. Yellow posters vowing then-UAP MP Craig Kelly would be “our next prime minister” evidently fell flat with voters as the decade-long politician lost his seat with just 7.6% support.

If the millions are used effectively, however, it could make the debate swirling around the Voice to Parliament referendum that much murkier. Palmer is “one of the greatest spreaders of misinformation in Australian politics”, Coper says, and this investment goes a long way in spreading “harmful false narratives” to unsuspecting voters.

In June 2021, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) slammed a radio ad authorised by Palmer that falsely claimed Australia had experienced just one COVID-19-related death in 2021 and 210 deaths from the vaccine. Palmer claimed the information came from the TGA, prompting the governing body to warn that “misinformation … poses an unacceptable threat to the health of Australians”.

Palmer has also been known to spruik conspiracy theories, including linking Australia’s housing crisis to The Great Reset panic on social media, sending spam text messages about the government supposedly giving up control of its healthcare system to the World Health Organization, and even claiming the CIA and Rockefeller family was funding the Greens and Greenpeace. Palmer later told the media he was not a conspiracy theorist.

It’s hard to say why Palmer has decided to put cash into the No campaign so late in the game, Axel Bruns, Australian laureate fellow and professor at the Digital Media Research Centre of Queensland University of Technology, tells Crikey. We’re just two weeks out from the October 14 referendum date, while last week the Federal Court threw out Palmer’s legal case against the Australian Electoral Commission over the question of whether a cross should count as a valid vote on the referendum ballot.

“The failure of the referendum generates no immediate material benefit for him or his companies,” says Bruns.

“However, it fits with Palmer’s, and his party’s, established role as political spoilers: while they have no chance of gaining significant power themselves, they deliberately work to disrupt political processes for everyone else too.”

Fair enough for Clive Palmer to donate to the No camp, or should he keep his nose out of politics? Let us know your thoughts by writing to letters@crikey.com.au. Please include your full name to be considered for publication. We reserve the right to edit for length and clarity.

The post What will Palmer’s $2m give the No Camp, and cost Australian voters? appeared first on Crikey.

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