New England, Sunshine Coast’s millionaire parties

When the history of this increasingly bizarre election campaign is written, the past week will fall under the heading of “Eccentric business tycoons join the race”.

Two new parties have joined the political sphere; billionaire Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party and Jamie McIntyre’s 21st Century Australia Party.

Unsurprisingly, Palmer’s party has received more attention – when the mining magnate makes an announcement, he knows the press will be there.

Palmer is rapidly building up a reputation for resurrection. There was his announcement to build a replica of the Titanic, followed a few months later by his decision to house robot dinosaurs in an amusement park.

Now he has resurrected the name of the Liberal Party’s predecessor, a loose coalition of anti-Labor forces that existed from 1931 to 1945. He has been threatening to establish his own political party since last year, when he resigned from the Liberal National Party following a bitter and public feud with Queensland Premier Campbell Newman.

Intending to field candidates in all 150 House of Representatives seats, Palmer himself will run in the Sunshine Coast electorate of Fairfax, currently held by retiring LNP MP Alex Somlyay.

The UAP will join the growing list of conservative minor parties, such as Katter’s Australian Party and Family First. Apart from differences on refugee policy and an even greater desire to abolish carbon pricing, what little detail has emerged from the party’s platform shows many similarities with the Coalition.

Whether those similarities will cause headaches for the Liberals and Nationals remains to be seen, since the media’s almost voyeuristic obsession with Palmer will not necessarily translate into votes at the ballot box.

Closer to home, another political party was celebrating its launch in bowls clubs and other function centres in towns across the New England.

I covered the launch of the 21st Century Australia Party in Armidale on Tuesday night, which mostly consisted of a 90-minute speech by McIntyre on the party’s platform.

Unlike the UAP, 21st Century Australia policy deviates radically from the Coalition, with a 25-point plan including the abolition of compulsory voting, review (and possible dismantling) of state governments and the banning of cigarette sales to anyone born in the year 2000 onwards.

While it could be considered libertarian for the most part, the party moves across the political spectrum to include social democratic policies, such as turning Australia Post into a bank and establishing state-run companies in industries such as mining – provided those companies were run by businesspeople rather than bureaucrats.

McIntyre is usually in the news for matters outside political candidacy – in addition to his work as a motivational speaker, he is bringing action movie star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Australia in June, with plans to also invite Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama to our shores in the future.

He also courted controversy in 2011 after successfully taking Google to court to force it to reveal the publishers of a website calling him a “thieving scumbag”.

McIntyre will run in the seat of New England, adding to what was already shaping up to be an interesting contest between incumbent MP Tony Windsor and Nationals candidate Barnaby Joyce.

While he claimed to respect Senator Joyce’s ability as a politician, McIntyre has held a grudge against Windsor since the 2010 election, when the independent MP gave his support to the Labor minority government following a hung parliament.

In fact, before even announcing his candidacy, McIntyre offered to contribute $250,000 to any campaign that attempted to unseat Windsor.

I first heard of McIntyre when he released a media statement announcing his intention to run on April 1. Yes, April 1. Despite the date, the media release was legitimate and I interviewed him the next day.

As with the UAP, it remains unclear how the community will react to the 21st Century Australia Party; it also has yet to be registered by the AEC.

McIntyre has a massive following online, with more than 500,000 Twitter followers, but it’s unclear how many of those followers live in New England. Interestingly enough, when I set up a poll asking who readers would like to be represented by, McIntyre’s share of the vote mysteriously skyrocketed a few minutes after he posted a link to the poll through his social media accounts.

The two parties are trying to capitalise on a rare moment in Australia: a time when there is both a massive conservative groundswell against Labor and a lukewarm response to the country’s main conservative leader. It is probable that the minor party votes will simply feed preferences to the Coalition, but the results could have the Liberal and National head offices frowning at the loss of primary votes.

Regardless of the eventual election result, voters in the New England and on the Sunshine Coast are in for an interesting few months.

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5 Responses to New England, Sunshine Coast’s millionaire parties

  1. Sarah says:

    I believe in passion and to go in to politics you need passion. Jamie McIntyre speaks with passion and care for the people of Australia in particular his home town area of Glen Innes. Jamie puts so much in to bettering Australia. The fact that he has launched this political party to improve the political system that is crippling Australia speaks louder then any words. I say go Jamie and 21st Century Australia. I got to meet Jamie and his team and they are so down to earth and passionate.

    • Andrew says:

      You need much more than passion to be a real political force in the country. Whilst it’s a novel idea to create your own party, this only serves to split the conservative vote and ultimately we need to rid ourselves of the horrible Labor/Green/Independent Alliance.

  2. Concerned says:

    McIntyre has a chequered history in business, including repeated clashes with ASIC and persistent reports of his involvement with disgraced property spruiker Henry Kaye – such as this front page story in The Age:

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/shadow-brokering-grey-area-the-regulator-struggles-to-control-20110812-1iqzy.html

    His financial services licence was subsequently cancelled:

    http://www.theage.com.au/business/romad-shaken-stirred-at-licence-loss-20111101-1mtuw.html

    If he does get any traction in politics, he’s only going to face even more scrutiny like this.

  3. Alice says:

    21st Century Australia Party has given me numerous answers to all my questions on how we can resolve economic struggles compared to other parties.

  4. Pingback: Red carpet launch | 21st Century News

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