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LNP Dilemma: Do they want Clive Palmer or just his money?

Comeback kid Mal Brough divides Coalition as billionaire Clive Palmer causes outrage within LNP

Mal Brough says he has no respect for the incumbent Member for Fisher, Peter Slipper, and will stand for
pre-selection for his seat at the next election. 

MAL Brough's planned political comeback in Peter Slipper's Sunshine Coast electorate has caused ructions within the LNP, with Barnaby Joyce helping to campaign against the former minister.

Senior figures within the LNP are also up in arms about billionaire Clive Palmer's plans to stand for pre-selection in Treasurer Wayne Swan's seat of Lilley.

Nominations for LNP pre-selection opened yesterday in the two crucial seats.

Mr Brough, who was pushing to win pre-selection before Mr Slipper became an Independent last year, yesterday confirmed he would stand for the seat.

But his political return has upset some senior Coalition figures, who believe he will be a divisive force, seeing himself as a rival to Tony Abbott for the party leadership.

Senator Joyce yesterday said he was advising Mr Brough's rival, small business owner Peta Simpson, who he described as the underdog in the contest.

"I don't for one minute doubt that Mal Brough has a high profile and a strong name," Senator Joyce told The Courier-Mail.

"But I don't think anyone should be pre-ordained for any position. I always think it is important that there be a competition."

Mr Brough has been recruiting large numbers of supporters to the LNP in what some describe as "blatant branch-stacking".

But others claim Mr Brough had been merely trying to prevent Mr Slipper winning pre-selection again before he quit the party.

Some of Mr Brough's new recruits will be ineligible to vote in his pre-selection because they will not meet a minimum requirement of 12 months membership before the July 3 cut-off for nominations in the seat.

Mr Brough did not return calls, but he issued a statement confirming he would seek preselection in Fisher.

In the seat of Lilley, Mr Palmer said he would confirm whether he would formally nominate for LNP preselection before the July 3 cut-off for applications. But he suggested he was still interested.

"I have more billboards going up in Lilley next week," he said on Twitter.

Liberal powerbrokers accuse the wealthy LNP donor of providing ammunition to Labor with "ill-disciplined" behaviour.

"He'd be a disaster during the campaign," one senior LNP source said.

"The local members will not tolerate him."

Another LNP figure said he did not understand what Mr Palmer was trying to achieve by seeking pre-selection.

One LNP figure who is close to Mr Palmer said he was "more eccentric than most of us" and was not suited to standing for Parliament.

Mr Swan, who holds his seat by just 3.2 per cent, was keen to highlight his potential rival's bid for political power.

"Mr Palmer's staked his reputation on his commitment to run for the LNP against me in Lilley, and I think it'd be deeply humiliating for him if he ran away from this contest," Mr Swan said.

"If Mr Palmer pulls out of running in Lilley, he'll be there with his billions of dollars supporting whoever the LNP pre-selects."