'Next Prime Minister' Kelly gang run amok in north-west Victoria
United Australia Party leader Craig Kelly has acknowledged it will be difficult to retain his seat at the federal election, but has vowed to keep fighting as his party runs advertisements promoting him as the nation's next prime minister and he campaigns in regional Victoria.
Comprehensive polling commissioned and published by The Australian newspaper this week said Mr Kelly is likely to lose the seat of Hughes, predicting he will get just five per cent of the first preference vote. The Australian has a long history of taking on UAP founder Clive Palmer through investigative reporting and editorially has rarely taken a positive tone towards his past or present political vehicles.
As a full-page UAP advertisement proclaiming the maverick MP to be Australia's next prime minister again ran in newspapers on Thursday, Mr Kelly acknowledged it will be a battle in his southwest Sydney electorate.
Mr Kelly, who defected from the Liberal party early last year, said COVID-19 lockdowns had made it difficult for incumbent MPs to be with their communities.
Preferences are also a challenge, he said, with Hughes Labor candidate Riley Campbell preferencing Liberal candidate Jenny Ware over Mr Kelly.
"It was always going to be tough, but it was important that I stuck with the principles and continue to stay there and fight.
"Everything is focused on Saturday."
Demonstrated his commitment to his loyal gang of freedom freedom freedom fighters, Mr Kelly was not in his electorate 9 days out from the election, but was touring regional Victoria on Thursday, visiting the seats of Nicholls and Mallee, both held by the National Party. He will travel to Hawke, considered a safe Labor seat, on Friday.
About 50 UAP supporters gathered at a park in Shepparton to meet Mr Kelly on Thursday afternoon, including farmers, factory workers, tradespeople, IT workers and students of all ages.
Dressed in the party's bright yellow, they voiced their concerns about vaccine mandates, freedom of speech, overcrowded hospitals and what they describe as government and legal overreach.
The UAP's candidate for Mallee is Swan Hill councillor and business owner Stuart King. King told Flow on 27 April that he was running to provide 'something different', out of frustration over the way councils were funded - and to deliver more in Mallee than it had seen in recent times:
"Let's face it regional Australia, is a very big place but typically we've seen in the past, when money or programs are announced for regional Australia, for some reason we don't seem to see it flow into Mallee. Whether that's because its a safe seat, we don't know, or maybe they just don't care about regional Victoria."
Hear the full interview with Stuart King on the Flow podcast player below:
At Shepparton on Thursday, one man went head-to-head with Mr Kelly, claiming all political parties are fraudulent, and was asked to leave the gathering.
Dominic O'Sullivan, a professor of political science from Charles Sturt University, said Clive Palmer's UAP will have a difficult time at the polls because established parties address mainstream voter issues in a coherent way.
"The United Australia Party is really looking for the support from the disaffected and the angry, the disillusioned people who can't identify with the sorts of candidates that run for mainstream parties.
"Those are people who haven't been able to find a voice anywhere else, but we wouldn't expect them to be a huge number."