Rogue former federal Liberal National Party MP George Christensen will stand for a seat in the Senate under the One Nation banner in the upcoming election.
But there are questions about Mr Christensen’s motive for his abrupt backflip on his decision to retire from Parliament.
He will join leader Pauline Hanson and candidate Raj Guruswamy on the party’s Queensland ticket, taking up the third spot.
“Everybody knows who George Christensen is. He is a fighter for Queensland and has done so in parliament for many years,” Senator Hanson said in Brisbane on Wednesday.
“I am proud to actually see that George now has joined One Nation’s team.”
Mr Christensen, who remains the MP for the safe LNP Queensland seat of Dawson until polling day, had planned to retire from politics and recently quit the LNP.
He had expressed his disenchantment with the LNP’s direction, its net-zero climate pledge and “destructive pandemic policies”.
One Nation’s vote would have to skyrocket for it to win three Senate spots – and return Mr Christensen to Canberra.
However, by standing at the May 21 election, he will become eligible for a taxpayer-funded “resettlement allowance” of six months of his salary – equivalent to $105,000 – if he loses. If he had quit politics, as he previously planned, he would not have been eligible for the payout.
- See full details of the allowance here
Earlier, LNP Senator Matt Canavan said while he understood Mr Christensen might have been upset with some party room decisions, change had to be fought for.
“It is a desertion,” the fellow Queenslander told Nine Network.
“You don’t go off and speak to a minor party.”
Asked if Mr Christensen could threaten his Queensland upper house seat, Senator Canavan said he took nothing for granted.
“Ultimately you don’t have job security … It’s up to the voters,” he said.
“But I love a fight, I don’t shirk from a fight.”
Senator Hanson also said on Wednesday that One Nation would field candidates in 151 lower house electorates across the nation.
One Nation says its membership has grown since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in lockdowns at various times in major cities across Australia.
“I think we can have a big impact on policy in Queensland,” Senator Hanson said.
“A lot of the issues we are fighting is about the COVID mandates … We have seen teachers, nurses, doctors, professionals have lost their jobs due to this COVID mandate that has been imposed on people through, not only the state governments, but also the federal governments. People will not forget that.”
Queensland Acting Premier Steven Miles said voters could do better than Mr Christensen, who disagreed with vaccination advice during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Let’s not forget how he risked the lives of Queenslanders, undermining their health advice, undermining public safety and public confidence in the vaccination program. All of that was deeply unhelpful,” he said on Wednesday.
Labor’s medical centre pledge
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has defended his $135 million election promise to fund 50 urgent medical care centres across the country, amid criticism it’s a copy of a previous policy.
Mr Albanese kicked off day three of the election campaign in the Greens-held seat of Melbourne on Wednesday morning, where he announced the four-year trial of the clinics in a bid to relieve clogged hospital emergency departments.
The bulk-billed clinics will be based at GP surgeries and community health centres nationwide, and will treat patients needing urgent care including for broken bones, minor burns and stitches for cuts.
Mr Albanese denied the plan was a recycled policy previously announced for the 2019 federal election.
“It wasn’t the same commitment, it wasn’t delivering the same service,” he said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the policy was identical to a proposal pitched by former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said the previous Labor government promised 65 “super clinics”, but delivered only 33, with a damning auditor-general’s report criticising the $650 million plan.
Mr Albanese said families would be able to get the care they needed from the clinics without long wait times.
“These clinics are a key part of Labor’s plan to strengthen Medicare by making it easier to see a doctor,” he said.
“Medicare Urgent Care Clinics will take the pressure off emergency departments, so they can concentrate on saving lives.”
Elsewhere, Mr Albanese has rebuffed claims Labor has moved to dump its plan to review the JobSeeker payment, but admitted huge government debt would constrain any policy change.
He said while Labor had no plan to raise the unemployment payment of $46 a day in its first budget, should the party win the federal election, reviews would be conducted in subsequent years.
Labor frontbencher Andrew Leigh told a welfare sector forum on Tuesday that Labor had not committed to an increase and had no plan for an independent review “at this stage”.
“We can’t do everything given the circumstances we are in,” Mr Albanese said.
“If we are fortunate enough to form government, we will form government at a time where debt’s heading towards $1 trillion, whereby you can’t repair all of the damage.”