Those of you either visiting a parent’s place this morning or idly attempting to pass the time in an airport departure lounge may have picked up a physical copy of either The Age or The Sydney Morning Herald, and thus may have been confronted with a giant, full-page ad containing not much else than the pickled walnut head of Craig Kelly.
The United Australia Party, a chasmous pit into which Clive Palmer pours his questionable fortune, is spending untold millions on advertising for the party well in advance of any formal federal election call.
Though it’s easy to write all the UAP’s political messaging off asinine, stupid, boring, and freakishly pissy (which it is, and then some), it’s not the pointless endeavour that it may seem.
Today’s ad, putting Kelly – a horse paste-eating, third-rate Glengarry Glen Ross subplot – beneath a brash slogan proclaiming him to be “our next Prime Minister”.
We won’t run the ad in this article; the UAP, in creating these domineering, ubiquitous ad campaigns is merely chasing any attention it can get, negative or otherwise. Even just this little bit of acknowledgement that the ad exists at all is most likely going to be viewed as a win internally.
Palmer and the UAP does all of this because it knows social media algorithms blatantly favour negativity. Facebook, where the UAP arguably does its best work, was infamously revealed to knowingly favour content that evokes angry reactions, forcing the content into more user’s feeds. And that, in turn, has given us the mucky, unfettered pit of misinformation that the UAP’s pig-like mentality thrives in.
More importantly, they do this because it works. At the last election, Palmer spent somewhere in the vicinity of $89 million on advertising; his “Make Australia Great Again” ad campaign was so oppressively everywhere it was hard to turn around without seeing UAP yellow. Though it resulted in a mere 2.36% senate vote and 3.43% lower house vote, the argument exists that that vote, through preference deals, was enough to funnel disaffected Labor voters into the Coalition pool, effectively rendering Palmer’s campaign as an exercise in re-election Scott Morrison‘s very pro-coal, very pro-mining government.
And lo, it worked. Almost immediately after the 2019 election result was returned, the Palmer-controlled Waratah Coal organisation reapplied for environmental clearance on a coal mining project in the Queensland Galilee Basin that clocks in somewhere around four times the size of the massively controversial Adani mine. That mining project, for the record, will produce power that would cost somewhere around four times the current market price, according to oppositional findings.
This isn’t pointless. It never has been. And it’s not you specifically they’re trying to court; they’re just using you, and the justifiable anger you feel whenever you see the over-inflated potato skin that currently occupies the seat of Hughes, to get to their target.
2.36% of the vote isn’t nothing. It’s more than enough to influence the things they want to influence. Which in this case is the Morrison Government.
Be a shame if, after all is said and done, they didn’t have that to lean on.
Be a real shame indeed.