By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra
The defection of three Northern Territory Country Liberal Party indigenous MPs to Clive Palmer’s party has comes as a fresh blow to the conservative side of politics and provoked an extraordinary attack from Queensland premier Campbell Newman.
Alison Anderson – whom Tony Abbott once tried to woo into federal politics – said she and fellow MLAs Larisa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwuy had approached PUP about a meeting with Palmer on Friday, and she had met him on Saturday night.
“We believed that we could achieve better things for all Territorians with the Palmer United Party,” said Anderson, who is now PUP’s leader in the Territory.
She said PUP was “the new force in Australian politics”.
Appearing at a news conference with Abbott, Newman said: “I ask, what inducements were offered to these three MP’s, what promises … to jump ship?”
He said Palmer had tried to buy the Queensland government, which had said “we’re not for sale”.
“As a result he’s gone on a rampage around Australia trying to buy other people and buy people’s votes and we’re seeing that in the Northern Territory today.”
Newman challenged journalists to ask more questions of Palmer and the defectors.
“If I was a journalist today … I’d be saying, ‘what was offered? What cash, what jobs, what financial support for elections? What offers were made to get them to jump ship?’”
Journalists should asked Palmer “the hard questions”, Newsman said.
“He says he’s not in business but then he still is in business trying to get out of paying a carbon tax obligation. He says he’s not in business but then he’s constantly talking about his excuses for why he’s not protecting the Great Barrier Reef properly in Townsville.”
Anderson denied any inducements. “We were not offered any inducements to join. We did so because we strongly believe it is the best way forward to give the people of the Northern Territory the futures they deserve.”
Palmer predicted that Anderson would become chief minister of the NT after its next election. The NT government was falling apart, he said.
Abbott said Anderson was “a fine person who’s fiercely stood up for the rights of her people”.
Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.