Palmer’s $625k donation going down the drain
BILLIONAIRE Clive Palmer's six-figure donation to unseat incumbent Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill - believed to be the biggest-ever to a council candidate - shapes to be a bigger fizzer than empty polling booths at today's election.
Mr Palmer reportedly tipped $625,000 into the campaign of former Queensland rugby league hardnut Greg Dowling in his tilt to oust Ms Hill from a third term in the north Queensland city.
Team Jenny Hill campaign director and deputy mayor Les Walker said both the mining magnate and the ex-footballer face serious questions about campaign spending in the "weird" election.
"It's a question for him (Mr Palmer), why spend that sort of money on a local election?'' Mr Walker, a veteran city councillor of 14 years, said.
"It demands an answer."
Mr Dowling, a shop owner, spent the bulk of his donated funds on banana-yellow billboards, media advertising, and a slick social media presence while Ms Hill's campaign donations totalled about $32,700.
Mr Walker said empty booths and low voter turnout at the election felt like a fizzer - with a final tally likely to take days.
"It's a bit of an empty feeling,'' he said.
"We've had drought, flood and now a deadly virus is sweeping the planet. It's a really weird, dynamic time.''
In Cairns, incumbent Mayor Bob Manning said locals who did not cast a vote had nothing to fear.
"I'll bet you London to a brick, there will be no fines,'' he said.
He believes all future elections should be run in a similar fashion and plans to make a submission to the Electoral Commission.
"I like it, voters don't have to run the gauntlet of volunteers all over them with pamphlets, there's no harassment."
The Vietnam War veteran and pie shop owner was confident his Unity Team would win a third-term.
"I believe, in a crisis, most will stick with a council they know."
Current Cooktown Mayor Peter Scott said a low voter turnout was expected at many indigenous councils on Cape York and in the Torres Strait.
"I asked if there was a cut-off point for legitimacy say 51 per cent of the roll but have not received advice,'' he said.
"It's been crazy days with lots of moving goalposts.''
Meanwhile, "living hero" Todd Olds was reunited with the mother and child he bravely rescued from a blazing house inferno 20 years ago in a heart-warming twist to local council elections in Cairns.
In his first tilt as a Division 8 councillor, the builder and new candidate was at a pre-polling booth when burns victim Carol Mayer and son Zac unexpectedly showed up and gave him the "biggest of hugs".
"He's a living hero,'' Ms Mayer said.
"Of course he gets our vote."
His brother Brett Olds, the incumbent division 9 councillor, told how his publicity-shy older sibling was overcome with emotion.
"He hadn't seen Carol and her son since he saved them from that burning house in Kewarra Beach in 2000,'' Mr Olds said.
"Zac was two years old when he found Carol burnt alive outside the house and she told him "my baby is inside".
"Todd ripped off a security screen and jumped into the burning building.
"Somehow he managed to find Zac, even though he couldn't see or hear anything with all the fire and smoke.
"Fast forward to 2020 and Zac is 20, going on 21 years old and living in Division 8.
"It is the very first time he gets to vote in local council elections and it's for the bloke that saved his life all those years ago.
"How cool is that?"
The Sunday Mail has attempted to contact Mr Palmer for comment, but has not yet got a response.
Originally published as Palmer's $625k donation going down the drain