The Palmer United Party’s influence in the Senate has been thrown into doubt, with its WA Senate seat in doubt and a senator-elect describing the deal with the Motoring Enthusiast Party as merely a “gentleman’s handshake”.
Earlier this month the PUP signed a Memorandum of Understanding with MEP Senator-elect Ricky Muir, forming a powerful voting bloc of four when the new Senate sits in July next year.
But today Tasmanian PUP senator-elect Jacqui Lambie said her party and Mr Muir would “watch each other’s back” but that their votes were not in automatic lock-step.
“There’s no deal – it’s just a gentlemen’s handshake to know that we’re supporting each other when we possibly can,” she told a press conference in Hobart.
“We don’t want Ricky Muir up there being eaten alive by these politicians.
“We’re lucky, we’re a really tight team, so we didn’t want him floating around there and being put round the wrong direction.”
Mr Palmer announced the voting alliance with Mr Muir in a press conference in Brisbane nearly three weeks ago, but has refused to release the text of their agreement.
The party founder was not at today’s press conference in Hobart, but Ms Lambie was accompanied by Queensland senator-elect Glenn Lazarus.
Western Australia Senate spot in doubt, question over ‘informal’ votes
But the deal with the Motoring Enthusiast Party could prove even more crucial to Clive Palmer’s party, with the position of the third PUP Senator now looking shaky in Western Australia.
The Australian Electoral Commission is re-examining hundreds of ballot papers which were counted as informal in the initial count but may now be valid.
PUP candidate Zhenya Dio Wang was declared the winner of one of the final Senate spots in WA after only 14 votes separated two minor parties at a crucial point in the counting.
The AEC initially decided against a recount, but changed its decision after an appeal by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam.
And the success of Mr Palmer’s own bid for the lower house seat of Fairfax, in Queensland, is still uncertain with an AEC recount set to continue for several more days.
The initial result declared the billionaire mining magnate the winner with 36 votes, which was reduced to just seven votes after the redistribution of preferences.
A margin of fewer than 100 votes triggers an automatic recount.