Clive Palmer unveiled the Senate candidates for his United Australia Party to little fanfare last week, but on closer inspection, the lineup of prospective politicians includes several familiar faces.
In addition to past Palmer candidates who are having another run at the job, Mr Palmer has stacked the Senate ticket with his own business associates, anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, among others.
One candidate is even a distant relative of the late Princess Diana, although Mr Palmer didn’t clarify which.
“We’ve got an outstanding team right across Australia,” the billionaire mining magnate told reporters at the time.
The announcement follows a bright yellow advertising blitz, with Mr Palmer’s nationalistic mantras being plastered on billboards, printed in newspapers and broadcast on TVs around the country.
The United Australia Party has announced 26 candidates in total.
“There’s a large number of people standing in NSW – more than you would say we could possibly win Senate seats for,” the billionaire said.
“But such is the enthusiasm, such is the vigour, that people want to leave their employment and make a stand against what’s been happening in our country.”
At the time of the speech, no part of Australia was under lockdown.
Business downturns have instead been attributed to workers falling ill, or customers choosing to stay safe at home.
Vaccine and lockdown sceptics
Mr Palmer touted several candidates in the context of his anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine mandate agenda.
Andrea Tokaji, the third-position Senate candidate for Western Australia, was introduced by Mr Palmer as a “human right lawyer” before he went on to mispronounce her name.
Ms Tokaji was a Liberal candidate in the last WA state election, but withdrew after the party discovered that she’d been publishing 5G conspiracy theories online.
In one 3000-word article from April, 2020, she asked: “Is there a correlation between the current rollout of 5G technology and COVID-19?”
The text also included several pseudoscientific claims about the supposed effect of 5G waves on the immune system, as well as claims about the Chinese government.
The United Australia Party’s second-position Senate candidate in Tasmania is retired airforce veteran Alan Hennessy.
Last year, Mr Hennessy appeared on a talk show hosted by Red Voice Media, a far-right media organisation that has been accused of spreading conspiracy theories and propaganda.
Mr Hennessy used the interview to call COVID-19 “a fraud”.
The same segment also claimed that three children in Australia died after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
South Australian registered mental health nurse Cathy Byrne is the United Australia Party’s second-position candidate in that state.
Ms Byrne attended the Adelaide ‘Hold The Line’ protest against vaccine mandates for healthcare workers last November, where she claimed people died after receiving COVID-19 vaccines.
Ms Byrne told the media that the pandemic is actually a “plandemic”, and promoted unproven and potentially dangerous testaments such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine instead of approved vaccines.
At the time of the protest she told reporters she had taken leave without pay after working as a nurse for 32 years.
Other candidates have a less prominent online presence, but Mr Palmer nevertheless linked them to his causes.
“We’re happy to say that our third Senate candidate in Victoria is a Qantas former flight attendant, Kelly Moran, who took a courageous stand against people being blackmailed about losing their jobs, and she feels she’s got an important point to play,” Palmer said.
Many candidates on the United Australia Party’s Senate ticket are current and former business associates of Mr Palmer.
Mr Palmer is his own lead Senate candidate in Queensland.
In second position, however, is “manufacturing executive” Martin Brewster.
This experience as a “manufacturing executive” stems from his position as procurement director for Queensland Nickel – the troubled nickel refinery that is jointly owned by Mr Palmer.
Mr Brewster is also the nephew of Mr Palmer, and has been a perennial candidate for his uncle’s party at consecutive state elections.
He was unable to be present for the announcement because he was “in his last day of COVID quarantine”.
Another candidate who Mr Palmer introduced simply as an “executive” was James McDonald, who is the party’s lead Senate candidate in Western Australia.
One of those businesses of which Mr McDonald was an executive is the Palmer Coolum Golf Course.
Mr MacDonald also served as Mr Palmer’s chief of staff from 2015-16 while the mining magnate was an MP.
Other mining executives were also in the mix, such as the UAP’s lead Senate candidate in NSW, Domenic Martino, who serves as an executive for several mining and gas companies, including coal miner, Cokal.