Sections

Services

Information

UK United Kingdom

Titanic ambitions: Palmer’s federal push shouldn’t be lightly dismissed

Queensland has a habit of raising the eyebrows of our southern cousins when it comes to politics “our way”. Visits to friends and family down south always have required explanations about Joh Bjelke-Petersen…

Soon after revealing his plans to build a replica Titanic, Clive Palmer has set his sights on becoming Australian Prime Minister. EPA/Jason Szenes

Queensland has a habit of raising the eyebrows of our southern cousins when it comes to politics “our way”. Visits to friends and family down south always have required explanations about Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Joh for Canberra, Pauline Hanson, Bob Katter, Peter Beattie, and lately, Campbell Newman.

More recently it has been Clive Palmer, our very own mining magnate, reclaiming a bit of Australian political history and making a grand entrance onto the national stage. Mr Palmer is reviving the United Australia Party (UAP) and says he wants to be Prime Minister - and since announcing his bold plan a week ago, the momentum behind him has been building.

The smarts behind the stunts

Best known nationally as the man who wants to build Titanic II and the franchise owner for a short time of a Gold Coast A-League soccer team, it would be easy for Mr Palmer’s latest venture into politics to be swamped by Titanic jokes and references to dinosaurs. But Mr Palmer has been a player in Queensland politics for decades. There is sufficient political savvy behind his pronouncements for us to take notice of his intentions.

On election night last year, I sat in the Queensland Electoral Commission’s Brisbane tally room and watched the live cross to the Liberal National Party (LNP) celebrations of their landslide win. The lasting image of that night was not of new premier Campbell Newman claiming victory: it was the loud, raucous offerings of a very excited LNP life-member, Clive Palmer.

Politics watchers here in Queensland were more than familiar with the financial resources Mr Palmer had poured into his beloved LNP; his history with the party and its antecedents was part of Queensland political lore; his role in the Joh for PM campaign is well-known. So whatever you think of the United Australia Party push, Mr Palmer is no political novice seeking to clumsily exert influence for his business interests.

The question some of us here in Queensland ask is “what went wrong, so quickly?”: from the joy of election night to the revival of an historic party and now seeing disaffected state MPs joining the UAP, starting with former LNP MPs turned independents Alex Douglas and Carl Judge.

Politics 101 for a new party

So what is the likelihood of success for the new UAP?

As my first-year politics student learnt in politics 101 last week, for Mr Palmer to ever become prime minister, he will need the majority support on the floor of the House to achieve that aim. He claims he will have 150 candidates ready, one for each seat in the lower house and candidates for the Senate.

Again, the 150 candidates is an ambitious aim, though not entirely impossible, but he does have a short lead-time to vet and check possible candidates. Mr Palmer has said he will nominate for the federal seat of Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast, a seat that adjoins Fisher, which itself is having an interesting stoush between newly-independent former Speaker Peter Slipper and the LNP candidate, former Howard Government minister Mal Brough. The Sunshine Coast has never had so much political attention.

Both federal seats are safe LNP seats and on-the-ground intelligence suggests that there is little likelihood that the seats will change hands. In drafting state members Dr Alex Douglas from the Gold Coast and former police officer Carl Judge from Brisbane, the UAP has its required sitting members in time for formal registration with the Australian Electoral Commission - though it is blurring the lines for the electorate between state and federal.

The UAP in this way is not unlike Queensland’s other conservative breakout group, the Katter’s Australia Party. Clive Palmer has also received strong endorsement from popular and respected state independent Peter Wellington, whose state boundaries intersect with the seat of Fairfax. That might garner some support from Wellington supporters when Clive comes doorknocking soon.

The perils ahead

I don’t doubt Mr Palmer will attract a reasonable number of votes if he stands. There is a lot of dissatisfaction with the major parties and people might like his rambunctiousness sufficiently to cast their vote his way. However, preferences will tell a big story here too. A first preference vote to UAP will send a message to the majors, but the second and third preferences will inevitably be directed to the more conservative side of politics. This will no doubt favour the LNP candidates.

Mr Palmer is here to make a larger-than-life impression, and he will. However, there will be further chapters to this story as the 14 September poll approaches, not the least of which will be the need to clear the air between the politics of this state and the state of politics nationally. Two state MPs do not yet a federal party make.

Mr Palmer’s grand ambition to be PM is unlikely to be realised this time. If he wants the UAP to succeed in the long-term, Mr Palmer needs to heed the lessons of his beloved Titanic. As captain of the ship, he is navigating into perilous political territory - so he will need to keep a close watch on where he is headed, rather than just charging in, full steam ahead.

Articles also by This Author

Sign in to Favourite

Join the conversation

27 Comments sorted by

  1. Mike Swinbourne

    logged in via Facebook

    I'm sorry, but given his recent track record, it is pretty hard to take anything that Clive Palment says or does seriously.

    He may have some sort of canny, undisclosed agenda - but I doubt very much that it is that he either wants to be, or has serious designs on becoming PM.

    Maybe he is just upset with Campbell Newman and wants to get back on him somehow.

    report
    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      I can actually agree with you Mike and on top of whatever else I've said, it near seems and may be more so than seems that maturity does not always accompany wealth.

      report
    2. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Mike Swinbourne

      He sure may have some sort of canny, undisclosed agenda. Yesterday's Conversation article about how magicians play their tricks gives it all away. While we watch Clive's stupid shenanigans and Katter's palaver and Abbott's trick cycling, in the shadow at the back of the tent Clive's coal ducks are being carefully and quietly lined up by various government processes. Clive has a multi-billion dollar coal mine to open (hey, it's called China First - he's got his priorities sorted) but he really…

      Read more
  2. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " and people might like his rambunctiousness sufficiently to cast their vote his way. "
    Rambunctious!

    Is that something out of a Sumo wrestlers guide book Donna?

    You are certainly more of a political animal than I'll ever be when it comes to making observations but even if I was living down with the sunshine and dinosaurs and Clive happened to be generous with his loot, he would still not get my vote.

    He is just so full of himself and that is saying something, an ostentatious heart attack waiting to happen is more how I'd describe the big fella and he could do well to consult with Joe on fitting into a smaller suit before he is remembered along with Joh.

    The guy may have money to burn and that is great for he'll be burning heaps.

    report
  3. Anthony Nolan

    logged in via email @hotmail.com

    Another Queensland hillbilly with bucket loads of money and hubris. His direct entry into politics will be as credible as his honorary professorship with Bond University's School of Sustainable Development. Get that, a coal billionaire doing sustainability! Whacko!

    report
  4. Joe De Lede

    Two-Bob Lair

    I will be voting for Clive Palmers United Australia party come September.

    Here's why:

    1) When the ALP handmaidens of the Corporate Liege Lords from the Big End of town, deposed Kevin Rudd at the behest of the Multinational Mining Behemoths; they were direct accomplices in thieving over - at least - 100 Billion Dollars in resource taxes [over the following decade] from the Australian People, & gifting the loot to the Wealthiest 1% Transnational-Rentier-Elite, the world has ever known…

    Read more
    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Joe De Lede

      You found out what what was growing down in that garden eh Joe!

      report
    2. Mike Swinbourne

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Joe De Lede

      Can I just get this straight Joe.

      You won't be voting for the ALP, because they were guilty of giving the Australian people's resource taxes to the rich elite.

      You won't be voting for the LNP because they are enslaved to a 'market knows best' philosophy.

      You won't vote for Katter because he is a Queensland redneck.

      You won't vote for the Greens because their ideas are off the planet.

      But you are going to vote for Clive Palmer???

      Do you even read the things you wrote??

      report
    3. Felix MacNeill

      Environmental Manager

      In reply to Joe De Lede

      Joe, the enemy of your enemies (i.e. everyone) isn't necessarily your friend...

      report
    4. Anna Young

      Project Manager

      In reply to Joe De Lede

      Re: "overthrow of a democratically elected Prime Minister"

      We do not democratically elect Prime Ministers, Joe. We elect members of parliament (who are members of political parties) and the party who has the numbers to form government puts forward a leader who becomes PM. It is absolutely allowable within both existing rules and conventions to change leaders.

      And by the way, Julia was leader of the ALP at the last election so even according to your version of our political system she is democratically elected.

      report
    5. Michael Leonard Furtado

      Doctor at University of Queensland

      In reply to Joe De Lede

      Well said, Joe, and well argued, Donna! Clive is a conservative with a difference. Above all he has a good heart and a big place for the underdog in it. Please note that, unlike the other parties, and the Hansonites in particular, he hasn't chosen to exploit the asylum-seeker issue. I hope that, once they realise it, the more humanitarian sections of the Green and Labor Parties will shift their support to him. His forthright manner speaks volumes: his interview with Tony Jones on Lateline was one…

      Read more
    6. Joe De Lede

      Two-Bob Lair

      In reply to Anna Young

      OK, so I'm a Canuck import not fully adjacent to the subtleties of 'legitimacy' underwriting the Oz-way of political succession; but grant me this:

      A leadership spill of the Australian Labor Party [by then in opposition for a decade or so] was held on 4 December 2006. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley was challenged by Shadow Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, while Deputy Opposition Leader Jenny Macklin was challenged by Shadow Health Minister Julia Gillard in a joint-ticket. Rudd defeated Beazley, after…

      Read more
    7. Joe De Lede

      Two-Bob Lair

      In reply to Felix MacNeill

      Granted; in rejoinder I would simply point out that the ALP was established to represent the working class ... look what it has morphed into.

      I would be far more comfortable if Dick Smith had revived the UAP - however I'm willing to give Clive Palmer a fair go; there's nothing wrong with having wealthy people at the top in a free-enterprise society ... there is however, something terribly wrong with having a growing multitude of destitute people - with no glimmer of hope - at the bottom of a free enterprise society.

      report
    8. Joe De Lede

      Two-Bob Lair

      In reply to Greg North

      Hemp aplenty; but neither money-trees nor trees of knowledge growing at the bottom of the Greenies garden.

      report
  5. Zvyozdochka

    logged in via Twitter

    It would only be slightly more ridiculous if Heiress Gina ran instead.

    report
  6. Don Williams

    Water Policy Analyst

    Clive Palmer's UAP might attract some interest in Queensland, but is likely to be irrelevant in the Melbourne Sydney Canberra triangle. Could be some minor interest in WA, SA and Tasmania.

    Shame that the article did nothing to place Palmer's ambitions in a true national context.

    Seems to me that, like the cane toad, Clive's political appeal will not enjoy the journey south.

    report
    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Don Williams

      The Toads are adapting Don and so given a bit of time aided by some warming, you could be swimming with them and Crocs.
      But never fear for I suspect it'll even be some irrelevant minor interest in Queensland too.

      Now, if he had a rich Gina like filly as a running mate, that could make all the difference.
      It might be even less than a minor outcome.

      report
  7. Liam Hanlon

    Student

    Clive Palmer is just proof of the disgusting people wealthy people are. He thinks he can just buy anything he wants as its some plaything. We already have the LNP and ALP looking after the mega wealthy. We don't need a third party with that aim.

    report
    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Liam Hanlon

      " Clive Palmer is just proof of the disgusting people wealthy people are. "
      That's just a tad generalist Liam and Bill Gates is one example of a very wealthy benefactor, Warren Buffett another still living in same house or was and just one watch all his life so it is said and about the two wealthiest gents in the US or were.

      report
  8. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    It all adds up to a marvellous ringing endorsement of the leadership of the invisible man, Tony Abbott, so hollowed out he is totally transparent.
    Go for it Clive, parliaments always do better with independents in the balance of power.

    report
  9. Thor Prohaska

    I.T. Professional

    Historically from a party perspective Clive Palmer and I come from different sides of the political divide.

    However, last year when I saw Clive stand up for what was right at the federal liberal party conference by arguing lobbyists should be banned from holding senior roles in the Liberal party I cheered. And I was even more impressed when at the United Australia Party (UAP) press conference on Friday 26 April he said that we should all work together in the national interest and not listen to…

    Read more
    1. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Thor Prohaska

      Thor, please consider these little details about Clive Palmer's proposed coal mine in NQ. The deposit is located under a freehold called property called Brimblebox (station I think). Some years ago the owners of Brimblebox entered into an agreement with the Queensland minister for environment to place a permanent caveat on the title to their property which would establish it as a Nature Refuge under Queensland legislation. The owners signed up to a management plan, similar to a national park…

      Read more
    2. Thor Prohaska

      I.T. Professional

      In reply to Hugh McColl

      Hi Hugh, The observations that you make, as far as I can tell from my own readings about the Brimblebox Station issue, are accurate. This would be a test for the principle of being able to deal with each issue individually on its merits. Coming from a coal mining town myself I personally don't like the effect it is having on the environment around there and would prefer that we leave the coal in the ground and find a cheaper less polluting form of energy. As far as land use goes I support the proposition…

      Read more
    3. Hugh McColl

      Geographer

      In reply to Thor Prohaska

      Hi Thor, The thing is, a previous Queensland government established a system of laws that said (in effect) if you wish to place a permanent caveat on the title to your land - a concept which the government wholly supports and promotes, we (or the relevant minister) will stand by that commitment and we won't let anyone interfere with our contractual arrangement. The legislation doesn't pretend that it is not actually worth the paper it's written on - after all, it is supposed to be about identifying…

      Read more
    4. Thor Prohaska

      I.T. Professional

      In reply to Hugh McColl

      Hi Hugh, would have replied earlier but work/family commitments took priority.

      I have a difficulty here in that I am not sufficiently familiar with the details of this permanent caveat mechanism. If it is a law then how could anybody have it overruled by a minister without the minister breaking the law?

      I suspect that part of the problem here is that the Minister does have some powers to override legal mechanisms like this if there are minerals on the land. Again, I need to know the details to be able to understand this better.

      report
  10. Janeen Harris

    chef

    I've seen an interview with Palmer where he says he wants better outcomes for our remote aboriginal communities and other quite ultruistic ideals. Does anyone know what his record is when it comes to community programs in Queensland or is he spouting nonsense and deciding he can achieve more only with other peoples money than what is happening now. I've never heard of him as a charitable type of man.

    report