Mining billionaire Clive Palmer is attempting a return to federal politics, announcing he will lead his party’s Senate team in the upcoming election.
Mr Palmer’s United Australia Party plans to field Senate candidates in every state and territory, with the one-time lower house MP last tasting victory in 2013 when he won the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax.
“The reason I’ve come back into politics and taken a key role at this important time is because of the state of the nation,” he told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday, pointing to the level of national debt.
“I’d like to be on my boat but I’m not, I’m in this situation.”
The vaccine-mandate opponent says his party has attracted more than 80,000 members, and will be backed by a campaign with significant resources.
“I don’t budget, we just respond to the political circumstance,” he said.
Wednesday’s press conference was held at Brisbane’s Hyatt Regency, where a check-in sign at the door stated proof of vaccination is required for entry from December 17.
However Mr Palmer said he did not need a vaccination.
“I don’t think I need a vaccination for COVID personally, I haven’t caught it, I have a healthy life,” he said, undeterred by the impact Queensland’s vaccine mandate for a wide range of venues may have on his campaign.
“I haven’t checked into the hotel, I haven’t gone to a restaurant here, I just came up to the escalator and walked into this room,” he said after being questioned if he was asked for proof of vaccination.
The party has just one seat in the federal parliament – the electorate of Hughes held by Craig Kelly, who was elected as a Liberal candidate until he resigned to sit as an independent before joining the UAP.
But Mr Palmer continues to spruik the party’s chances in the election to be held sometime before the end of May, and says candidates will also be fielded in every lower house seat.
“We can win seats in Western Sydney, Western Melbourne. There are seats in Queensland that we can win,” he said.
The party’s Senate team also includes former Deloitte Australia chief executive Domenic Martino in NSW and property executive Ralph Babet in Victoria.
The announcement follows controversy sparked by Mr Kelly, who caught the attention of the Therapeutic Goods Administration after spamming people with unsolicited text messages last year.
The messages included a link to a website showing listings of “adverse event notifications” from COVID-19 vaccines, which TGA’s John Skerritt labelled a misuse of data.
By Nick Gibbs in Brisbane for AAP