Clive’s having fun tormenting both sides of politics
As billionaire Clive Palmer playfully swats Tony Abbott around for a bit of sport the Liberal leadership should hark back to the first battle over the mining tax. Their recollections will not improve their mood.
Back when mining companies were fiercely opposing then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s doomed attempt to tax super profits they did so with a carefully regimented strategy. That regimentation was busted when Mr Palmer kept making unilateral interventions into the debate which strayed from the strategy and gave the appearance of disunity.
There were calls to Mr Palmer from executives of the big miners suggesting that a parade of billionaires refusing to pay a proposed tax was not a good look. It didn’t work. Clive Palmer would not be silenced until he thought he had made his presence felt.
And the same is happening now in the Liberal Party - or the Liberal National Party (LNP) as it’s known in Mr Palmer’s home state of Queensland.
It’s not a good look for Tony Abbott and other top Liberals to have a billionaire fundraiser romping so overtly in party debates as if he owned the joint.
The big money providers for the Liberals are meant to be milked but not heard. Clive Palmer believes that if you are going to pay, you are going to have a say. And you are going to do it in the open.
He has publicly made the quite reasonable point that it might be a conflict of interest to have two lobbyists - Alexander Downer and Santo Santoro - as senior Liberal officials, and privately had a noisy row with Opposition Leader Tony Abbott on the issue.
At the Liberals’ federal council last weekend Mr Palmer was wherever the cameras were and was clearly enjoying himself.
But what has further upset Liberals and delighted the ALP is the spectacle of Mr Palmer proposing - more like threatening - to run for Federal Parliament in a Queensland seat.
Who wouldn’t? The way Labor is going in Queensland even those CIA agents Mr Palmer claims are plotting against him could pick up a bundle of votes.
He was going to take on Treasurer Wayne Swan in the Brisbane seat of Lilley but then ducked out with a suggestion he might take on independent Bob Katter in the north Queensland seat of Kennedy.
It is likely he is just teasing Labor with the possibility he might force the party to spend money it doesn’t have to defend a cabinet member. And he is taunting his own party, by pretending to menace its decorum and solidarity.
Tony Abbott replied by taking a big swipe at Mr Palmer, effectively saying he would have to give up his day job of mining billionaire if he entered Parliament. Let’s face it, Mr Abbott doesn’t want a wealthy bloke who thinks he knows better than him and should be PM sitting alongside in Parliament. He’s got Malcolm Turnbull already.
Also, Clive Palmer matches the Queensland style of politics which is boisterous and unabashed, a long way from the buttoned-down discipline of Tony Abbott.
But while Mr Palmer might be teasing, he does indeed believe he knows what’s good for the state and probably for the country.
He declared his grass roots political credits by laying out his campaigning record since becoming a young fan of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen and the Nationals’ brilliant president Sir Robert Sparkes in the late 60s.
Mr Palmer said he had knocked on four million doors for the Nationals since 1969. This immediately launched a fleet of calculators and an armada of doubts.
By one calculation, Mr Palmer’s record meant he had alerted the residents behind 93,023 doors a year for the past 43 years. Or 254 doors a day. Or 11 doors an hour.
So with a door knocking rate of more than six a minute, it is extraordinary that Mr Palmer still had time to be a highly successful businessman, let alone get some sleep. No wonder he has flown to Tahiti to get some rest.
But it’s all part of the over-the-top nature of the man who wants to be seen as a big mover in the expected Coalition federal government, much as the senior figures in that prospective government might not be looking forward to it.
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