UAP wins Victorian Senate seat as Clive Palmer persists with claims of ‘electoral fraud’

Real estate agent Ralph Babet has won the sixth Senate position in Victoria for the United Australia party, billionaire mining magnate Clive Palmer’s party finally claiming a federal seat after spending an estimated $180m in the past two elections.

Despite the breakthrough result, Palmer has continued with allegations of “electoral fraud” in the May poll, without providing specific claims or evidence.

Babet, who also goes by the first name Deej, was named as having won in Victoria by the Australian Electoral Commission on Monday morning. The UAP ran nationally on a platform opposed to Covid vaccine mandates, aligning itself with so-called “freedom” campaigners and anti-lockdown groups, especially those in Victoria which had organised in opposition to the state premier, Daniel Andrews.

Babet will join Coalition senators Sarah Henderson and Bridget McKenzie, Labor’s Linda White and Jana Stewart, and Lidia Thorpe of the Greens, in the upper house.

The AEC earlier announced the Coalition’s Marise Payne, Ross Cadell and Jim Molan, Labor’s Deb O’Neill and Jenny McAllister, and the Greens’ David Shoebridge as senators for New South Wales.

Palmer’s Mineralogy company donated $83m to the UAP ahead of the 2019 election, when the party won zero seats. Palmer said earlier this year he would plan to spend around $100m on the 2022 poll.

The UAP won 4.12% of the national first-preference vote at May’s election, according to the AEC.

“The party is very pleased to announce that the United Australia party will have representation in the upper house following Ralph Babet’s outstanding election win in Victoria,” Palmer said in a statement.

“He will take the fight to the mainstream parties to deliver a better economic future for all Australian families.”

Babet runs a real estate business, the Babet Brothers, with his sibling, Matt. Their website describes them as “two of Melbourne’s most prolific and successful agents”. Matt Babet also ran for the UAP, in the safe Labor seat of Bruce.

In a video of a January campaign speech, posted to the Babet Brothers’ YouTube channel, Babet called Canberra “horrible” and “a dive”.

“I’m doing it because I’m sick of seeing the Australia I love so much being destroyed,” he said of his reasons for running for parliament.

Babet’s speech mentioned that he had participated in anti-mandate marches in Victoria, to “demand an end to segregation, an end to mandates, an end to the ever-growing power of the government”.

Babet has deleted a Twitter account he used to maintain until days before the 22 May election, but archived copies of his tweets – accessed through internet archive Wayback Machine – reveal past claims including “the ideology of the greens is cancerous to a free and open society.”

In another archived tweet, Babet said “Melbourne was the most locked down city in the world” and that “the labor and liberal coalition must be held responsible. The damage done will echo into generations.”

In the days since the election, a Facebook page under Babet’s name has posted several photos from a resort on the Gold Coast. One photo shows Babet with brother Matt both wearing suits while sitting in a golf cart, with the caption “They see me rolling. They hating.”

Another photo, of Babet drinking champagne, is captioned with the hashtags #freethinker and #biggovernmentsucks.

Several posts on Babet’s Facebook page raise concerns about the World Economic Forum and its “Great Reset” initiative, a popular talking point among rightwing groups which promote conspiracy theories that it is linked to the rise of a worldwide authoritarian government.

On 22 May, Babet posted “I would like to congratulate the new prime minister of Australia on an excellent campaign. Well done Klauss Schwab (sic)” – referencing the WEF’s chairman, alongside a photo of Klaus Schwab.

On the UAP’s website, Babet’s bio states “he will not stand by while those in power ignore the pleas of the people. The people have demanded an end to segregation, an end to mandates and an end to the ever growing power and authoritarianism of the Government.”

In his statement, Palmer claimed “Australia is in danger of becoming a banana republic” and said the UAP was “committed to holding Labor and the Liberals accountable for their actions”.

The UAP chairman also said his party would make further allegations of “instances of electoral fraud by the AEC in the 2022 federal election.” Palmer did not supply further information.

Two weeks ago, the UAP had sent an email to supporters claiming “our legal team is investigating several serious irregularities that concerned us”, but again provided no specifics.

“There are concerning elements regarding actions of the AEC which we will be bringing to light by presenting evidence,” Palmer said in a statement on Monday.

The UAP also said it would stand candidates in every seat at the Victorian state election in November, and that former party leader Craig Kelly – who was comprehensively defeated in his seat of Hughes, recording just a 4.9% primary vote – would become the party’s national director.

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