A candidate for Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party (UAP) has defended himself after statements he had made claiming he was the great-grandson of former prime minister Joseph Lyons were disputed by the late politician’s family.
- In a press release issued by the United Australia Party, its candidate for Clark, James ‘Jim’ Starkey, referred to former prime minister Joseph Lyons as his “great-grandfather”
- Mr Lyons’ family has disputed this claim and says there is no trace of him in their family tree
- Mr Starkey says there was a lot of “secrecy” around his family connection due to “family issues”
James ‘Jim’ Starkey is running as the UAP candidate for the Tasmanian electorate of Clark.
His political campaign makes several mentions of him being a great-grandson of Joseph Lyons, the founder of the original United Australia Party and the 10th prime minister of Australia.
“I am very proud of the legacy of my great-grandfather and it is a great honour to be representing the party he originally led as the United Australia Party’s candidate for Clark,” Mr Starkey said in a press release issued earlier this month.
However, descendants of Mr Lyons have told the ABC it is the first they have heard of the so-called family connection.
Sue Hall, a granddaughter of Mr Lyons, who died in 1939, said she and her family members had “thoroughly researched” their family trees and found no connection to Mr Starkey.
“It just does not seem to be possible,” she said.
“We’re a large family but a close one, so it is not hard to find things out and no-one can work this out.”
In a text message to the ABC sent on Mr Starkey’s behalf, his wife Wendy Starkey, who is also running for the UAP in the Victorian seat of Casey, said he had only professed to be a “descendant” of the former PM.
“I have no reason to disbelieve my parents who have said this since we were young,” the text message read.
“There was a lot of secrecy surrounding all this as my parents and grandparents were estranged because of some family issues.
“I cannot explain any more.”
Calls for Starkey to ‘front a camera’
Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie, the incumbent member in the seat Mr Starkey is running in, has called on the UAP to clear the air.
“My understanding is Jim Starkey had made a virtue of the fact that he is a relative of Joseph Lyons, certainly his boss Clive Palmer has made a virtue of the fact,” Mr Wilkie said.
“Given that there is now at least a question mark over Jim Starkey, over his claims and his integrity, he needs to front a camera today and if he won’t, his boss Clive Palmer needs to front a camera today and clear this up,” he said.
“It would be a very grave sin for someone to claim to be an heir and a successor of someone like Joseph Lyons and for that to be revealed as an untruth,” he said.
‘Nobody can get a hold of him’
Ms Hall said several family members had made unsuccessful attempts to contact Mr Starkey and the UAP to clear up the confusion.
“Nobody can get hold of him to have a conversation and find out anything about it so we are just a bit puzzled as to how he fits in,” she said.
“It becomes personally annoying when the UAP started to promote James Starkey as a candidate whose major claim to fame was his connection with our family without him being able to show how,” she said.
“You cannot just say that stuff unless you can base it on something.”
Joseph Lyons was the founding leader of the original United Australia Party — which was founded in 1931 and dissolved in 1945 — and was prime minister between 1932 and 1939.
He also served as premier of Tasmania.
Another of Lyons’ descendants Wendy Lacey, his great-granddaughter, and a professor of law at the University of South Australia, echoed Ms Hall’s concerns.
“We’ve had an extensive family tree done and there are no Starkeys in the family,” she said.
“Joseph and [his wife] Enid had 12 children, one of whom survived only a matter of months.
“There are many, many descendants but we are quite extensively connected through social media … and other family networks.
“No-one has ever heard of James Starkey.
“I think we’d all like to know what his claim is.”
The United Australia Party has been contacted for comment.