Labor MP Tony Burke has denied reports a member of the ALP executive close to Labor leader Bill Shorten held secret meetings with Mr Palmer in an attempt to broker a preference deal between Labor and the Queensland billionaire, in a bid to prevent a swing back to the Coalition.
“That story is wrong,” Mr Burke said on ABC television on Friday, referring to claims Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union Secretary Michael O’Connor met with Mr Palmer top discuss preferences in Brisbane last week.
“With respect to Clive Palmer … We’re talking about somebody who ripped off his workers and who ended up costing the taxpayer $70 million.”
Senator Burston also defended Mr Palmer’s failure to pay workers at his failed Queensland Nickel mine $7.16 million in entitlements.
“The man’s got a very kind heart,” Senator Burston said, suggesting the timing of the trust fund plan was linked to the devastating floods that swept the region in February.
Mr Palmer says the entitlements are being held in a trust account to be administered after the election and claims this means he has “already paid”.
He said the party’s own polling indicated that it was a chance to pick up “one or two Queensland [lower house] seats and perhaps a couple in NSW” and secure “as high as a 14 per cent primary vote in some Queensland seats”.
Senator Burston dismissed suggestions the party’s electoral prospects were only possible thanks to a $30 million Palmer-bankrolled advertising campaign, saying: “I don’t think we’re buying votes”.
Senator Burston was elected as a One Nation senator in 2016, but resigned after a feud with the party’s leader Pauline Hanson, telling media he intended to sit as an independent before joining Mr Palmer’s United Australia Party.
Earlier this year Senator Burston first denied and then admitted to be being responsible for smearing blood on the door of Senator Hanson’s Parliament House following a physical clash with Senator Hanson’s chief-of-staff James Ashby.
Dana is health and industrial relations reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.