Without any coherent platform, the Senate team disintegrated and Mr Palmer himself was notable mostly for attending only 54 per cent of parliamentary votes.
It is Mr Palmer’s record outside Parliament that is most disturbing. While he claims to be a friend of ordinary working people his record at his Queensland Nickel refinery says different.
The refinery, which had made huge donations to Mr Palmer’s political campaigns, collapsed in 2016 owing workers more than $65 million. Mr Palmer has refused to pay workers what they are owed, hiding behind a complicated corporate structure. Summoned to a special liquidator’s hearing, Mr Palmer said he was too sick to answer questions about the whereabouts of his nephew, the managing director who decamped overseas.
Mr Palmer has made a spectacular recovery both physically and financially since then but he has still not paid the nickel workers and he now faces criminal charges over an unrelated breach of the takeovers code in a deal involving a leisure resort on the Gold Coast in 2012.
Despite all this, opinion polls show that once again a significant percentage of voters are persuaded by his nonsense and will vote for him on Saturday.
Unfortunately, “know nothing” populism is taking root in many democracies around the world. Mr Palmer has borrowed freely from US President Donald Trump down to his slogan “Make Australia Great.”
Voters should however compare Mr Palmer’s empty slogans with his almost non-existent achievements and find out the facts about his role at Queensland Nickel. When Mr Palmer accuses the ALP of selling out to China, they should understand that his main business is an iron ore mine deal with the Chinese. They should also ask questions about whether he will use his political power to help his businesses.
If voters want to make a protest against the major parties surely they could find other parties with more integrity.
What should most annoy ordinary people is that Mr Palmer is only able to strut the big stage of politics because he is rich. Mr Palmer’s success is a strong argument for introducing caps on donations by individuals similar to those that already apply in NSW.
Even under NSW law, however, Mr Palmer would be able to finance his own candidacy. It is really up to voters to send the message that they cannot be cheaply bought.