Mr Palmer, who also announced himself as the United Australia Party’s number one Queensland Senate candidate, said it was a unanimous decision to endorse the ex-front rower in Herbert, currently held on a margin of less than 1 per cent by Labor’s Cathy O’Toole.
“Being one of the four people that had put their name forward, I couldn’t vote at that final outcome,” he said.
“I would have liked to have stood for Herbert, but of course the preselection committee was wiser than I was [and] chose Greg Dowling. He’s a great candidate, he’s going to win it and I recognise that he’s the best person to stand for Herbert and I want to do everything I can to get him elected.”
Mr Dowling’s rugby league career included 14 Tests for Australia and 11 State of Origin matches for Queensland.
He was famously involved in a 1985 punch-up with New Zealander Kevin Tamati at Lang Park.
Born in Cairns and raised in Ingham, Mr Dowling, 60, has been a Townsville resident for the past 10 years and owns an Oporto franchise in the Willows Shopping Centre.
The UAP’s constitution reportedly gives Mr Palmer and his family almost complete control of the party and preselections.
Asked if he decided not to run for Herbert, due to unpopularity over the closure of QNI, Mr Palmer answered with sarcasm.
“I’ve always been unpopular, haven’t you read the press? I’m so unpopular that there’s so many people here today at our announcement … No one had any interest at all, not in Sydney, in Melbourne, I’m sure you’ve known how unpopular I am, such an unpopular person,” he said.
“Because in my career, my life at 65, I’ve created 60,000 jobs, I’ve had exports of up to $3 billion a year from this country.
“And of course, that’s a very bad thing, we don’t want that to happen at all.
“If you really want to have a progressive country, you’d vote Greens, you know, they want to abolish our defence forces, they want to have the dole for life and free marijuana – now I think there’s a better way.”
Mr Palmer was confident about his chances of getting a Queensland Senate spot: “Well, we’ll win, you’ll see that I’ll be in the Senate, and there’s no question about that, I don’t think.”
There are six Queensland Senate spots up for grabs, with the LNP, Labor, Greens and One Nation among those vying for seats.
Asked about whether his ongoing legal issues could be his undoing, Mr Palmer sarcastically said it would “certainly be my undoing”.
“We’ve only got $5 billion, $4 billion, $7 billion, whatever you like, I’ve got $1 billion cash in the bank,” he said.
“It’s going really be my undoing getting an order, isn’t it, if I get an order against me for $100 million, I’ll just write them a cheque and I’ll continue.”
Mr Dowling did not want to speak about former Palmer United Party leader and senator and former NRL footballer Glenn Lazarus, who quit the party in 2015 to establish his own political party, before losing his seat at the 2016 election.
“It’s got nothing to do with me, seriously, it hasn’t,” he said.
PUP was relaunched and registered as the United Australia Party in 2018.
Mr Dowling said he supported the Adani mine, and said there was also a need for more spending on infrastructure.
Felicity Caldwell is state political reporter at the Brisbane Times