Questions raised over Palmer’s candidates

Mining magnate Clive Palmer has promised the country his United Australia Party "will win government", taking out full-page ads to show off the 151 candidates he has running next month's federal election.

The Queensland businessman and United Australia Party leader, who is running for the Senate, penned an open letter to the "men and women of Australia" last week and implored them to ignore "fake news".

"The United Australia Party is on track to win government at the next federal election," Mr Palmer wrote.

After his open letter, Mr Palmer took out another two pages spruiking his candidates.

"We're coming!" the headline read, followed by an introduction to the "everyday people who will put Australia first".

Each candidate's mobile number was also published beneath their head shots.

But despite his huge promises, questions are being raised about the eligibility of many of Mr Palmer's candidates.

At least 19 United Australia Party candidates have submitted incomplete or inconsistent information to the Australian Electoral Commission.

 

Just a few of the United Australia Party candidates that submitted incomplete eligibility checklists.
Just a few of the United Australia Party candidates that submitted incomplete eligibility checklists.

 

Parliament was thrown into chaos last year after 14 politicians resigned or were ruled ineligible because of dual citizenship.

The mass exodus, triggered by section 44 of the constitution, left dozens of politicians working to legally prove they were only Australian citizens.

Some resignations triggered by-elections, including in Longman in Queensland and Braddon in Tasmania.

After last year's resignations and renouncing, the federal government introduced a new requirement for all candidates hoping to be elected.

The eligibility checklist now requires candidates to disclose where they, their parents and their grandparents were born and also what citizenship they have.

As reported by The Guardian, 16 United Australia Party candidates stated via the AEC that they were born here but had parents or grandparents born in another country.

But those 16 - which include Matthew Sirianni-Duffy in Aston, Wayne Connolly in Goldstein, Lisa Bentley in Gellibrand, Ron Jean in Dunkley, George Zoraya in Chisholm, Adam Veitch in Bendigo, Neil Harvey in Corangamite, Lynda Abdo in Hume, Colin Thompson in Dawson, Christian Julius in Griffith, Kenneth Law in Groom, Jatinder Singh in Holt, Shane Wheatland in Indi, Tony Seals in Isaacs, Md Sarwar Hasan in Maribyrnong, Tony Pecora in Melbourne, Adam Holt in Sydney and Yohan Batzke - failed to provide details relating to where their family was born.

While the AEC is in charge of the eligibility checklist, it is unable to reject candidates based on their application.

"The Electoral Act does not provide the AEC with the authority to conduct eligibility checks on potential candidates," the commission says.

"The AEC cannot disqualify a candidate relying on the operation of section 44 of the constitution."

The only way a candidate can be disqualified or ruled ineligible to stand in parliament is determined by the High Court - and only after an election.

One example of citizenship confusion in Mr Palmer's United Australia Party is Nadeem Ashraf, who is running for Blaxland in NSW.

 

Nadeem Ashraf with Clive Palmer.
Nadeem Ashraf with Clive Palmer.

In Mr Ashraf's eligibility checklist, the UAP candidate declares he knows his parents were born in Pakistan but is not sure of his grandparents.

Mr Ashraf was also a citizen of Pakistan but in his checklist declares he lost it "on naturalisation as Australian citizen" in 1986.

However, the law in Pakistan requires citizens of that country to formally renounce their citizenship - documentation Mr Ashraf did not provide.

Pakistan also allows for its citizens to hold dual citizenship but if Mr Ashraf hopes to be elected to Australian Parliament, he can only be an Australian citizen.

Mr Ashraf later admitted he had renounced his Pakistani citizenship in 2013 but had not attached those forms to his eligibility checklist.

News.com.au attempted to contact the United Australia Party for comment but it did not respond.

A spokesman previously told The Guardian: "All (candidates) are eligible and compliant under s44".

While some candidates' eligibility is under a cloud, polling suggests it is unlikely any UAP members would win a seat in the Parliament.

Furthermore, the chances of UAP forming government, as Mr Palmer has suggested, is non-existent.

However, the party could be critical in a handful of marginal seats where preferences will be key.

Questions surrounding the eligibility of Mr Palmer's candidates came the same day the mining magnate exploded on breakfast TV and said he was fed up with being personally attacked.

Appearing on the Today show this morning, the billionaire tried to deflect attacks from his political opponents ahead of the election on May 18.

Labor has labelled Mr Palmer a "tosser" and "conman" after the Liberal Party struck a preference deal with his populist party.

"Let's face it, I'm a bad person, I'm a bad person," he sarcastically told Today host Deb Knight.

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

 

Clive Palmer on the Today show.
Clive Palmer on the Today show.

 

Despite reports Labor officials informally met with Mr 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 Mr 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," Mr Albanese said on Friday.

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

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

But he stressed attacks against him hadn't rattled him.

"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 $4000 million. Do you think I give a stuff about what 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."

- with AAP