“I want to be a billionaire, so freakin’ bad”
That’s the chorus of a well known Gen Y song. Donald Trump pisses all over that ethos.
Mr Trump is a terribly successful man. Half the buildings on the banks of the Hudson River in New York are Trump real estate. The Apprentice turned his mop into an icon, and he carefully cultivated his image ever since. Up until Barack Obama was elected president and he revealed his nutbag conspiracy theorist leanings.
The Punch has a bit of a crush on Clive Palmer’s various whacky shenanigans. But there’s mystery afoot. The Queenslander’s not going to run against Bob Katter. He’s not going to run against Kevin Rudd. He’s only got a few options left.
The Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax might be it. Speaking of Fairfax, Mr Palmer has contemplated extending a hand to Fairfax journos made redundant for a potential online publication, ‘Rage’. And he’s building the Titanic. One could say there’s a metaphor or 7 in this paragraph.
Anyway. It’s Thursday. Got any whacky ideas?
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Australian political commentary seems to have taken a musical detour in the past few months. From Craig Emerson’s ‘Whyalla wipe out’ Skyhooks rendition to Wayne Swan using the lyricism of Bruce Springsteen in his war with Clive Palmer, Australian politicians are rocking musical metaphors.
Wayne Swan has used Springsteen’s Badlands ballad in his recent tit for tat warfare with Clive Palmer. Swan spoke at the 2012 Button Lecture telling his audience how ‘The Boss” inspires him.
“‘Poor man want to be rich, rich man want to be king, and a king ain’t satisfied till he rules everything’. Now when I listened to that song again recently it struck me that Springsteen was talking expressly about a few people I’ve written about lately.” said Swan.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Well, so says Newton’s Third Law and any number of derivative and inane pseudo-philosophers.
This week, scientists unveiled – in a sort of dance of the seven veils in which the latest one was quite gauzy – the glue that holds the universe together, the Higgs boson.
And as the universe started to make a little more sense, lo, it also started to make a lot less sense. It’s as though by pinpointing what stops the universe unravelling, we thereby kickstarted the unravelling process.
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Psychiatry professor Patrick McGorry is an Australian of the Year who has made a difference.
After being awarded the honour in 2010, McGorry became one of the chief ambassadors of a campaign to get the federal government to reform the mental health sector. It paid off big time: In the 2011 federal budget $2.2 billion was invested in mental health reform.
Onya, Pat. Now McGorry’s saying the title he won shouldn’t just be awarded to someone who has done valuable work, but someone who wants to leverage the title’s power into continuing to change the world. He’s got a point.
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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.
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More than anything right now, Australia needs leadership. We need clear policy direction, we need a leader that cares nothing for popularity, for political correctness, for playing the game.
In short, we need Clive Palmer. National Living Treasure. Bold visionary. Mr Palmer is not beholden to trendy ideas. He is unafraid to speak his mind, to cross swords with those from the left and the right.
What the world needs now is Clive, sweet Clive.
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I’m not sold on Clive Palmer’s political instincts. The mining magnate, who controls a variety of resources companies like Queensland Nickel, has a tough challenge ahead of him winning LNP preselection in the seat of Lilley which is currently held by Deputy PM Wayne Swan. Particularly since Opposition Leader Tony Abbott hit a reluctant note talking about it yesterday.
But I am sold on Palmer’s idea to build a second Titanic. Reason one: it’s an example of a billionaire actually doing something grand with their ginormous reserves of cash for once. “I don’t want to die wondering, you know, I always wondered if we could build another Titanic,” he told ABC Brisbane this morning.
Reason two: it’s an exciting and potentially viable business opportunity.
Australian politics at the moment is a strange sort of Wonderland. It’s filled with odd characters – some weird, some slightly sinister – and it’s all more than a little bit nonsensical. Some voters are stamping their feet in frustration at the stupidest tea party they’ve ever been to, while the more violently inclined are calling for decapitation.
In the most recent chapter, Greens Leader Bob Brown disappeared back up the rabbithole, sidelined Labor MP Craig Thomson’s alleged adventures have shrunk his stature significantly, while Liberal-turned-Independent Speaker Peter Slipper’s problems seem to be experiencing unstoppable growth.
Yesterday mining magnate Clive Palmer announced he wants to join the party. He wants to challenge Treasurer Wayne Swan in a battle that seems to have just a whiff of the personal about it – Swan and he have been engaged in a war of words over the mining tax and the role of billionaires in public life.
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It says a lot about the current climate that a mining magnate can simultaneously announce he’s commissioned a replica of the Titanic and that he’s going to run against the Treasurer at the next election and it seems like just another day in the circus that is Australian politics.
Clive Palmer’s press conference this morning might shift the focus from Julia Gillard’s diabolical situation for, oh, about seven minutes. But as much as the ALP might want to jump all over it like a life-raft, anyone who thinks mocking Clive Palmer is going to clear the “dark cloud” hanging over parliament is deluded.
While it might be great fun, it’s not going to work. But you can almost hear the list of talking points pinging around the ALP front-bench this morning, as the people running the Government’s dysfunctional communications cling to the idea that at least going after Clive is better than the “what she said” strategy.
So Julie Bishop has a Huawei-donated iPad. Dangerous. Dangerous for her and dangerous for Australia if she ever aspires to become Foreign Minister. The iPad alone is but one of the micro details to emerge from Ms Bishop’s visit to China as a guest of the Chinese telco.
Some Liberals led by Julie Bishop together with vested mining interests questioned the Gillard Government’ accepting ASIO’s advice against letting Huawei bid for the National Broadband Network. But the bar on Huawei has wider significance because the controversy it has sparked illuminates the most vexing issue of Australian foreign policy - our relationship with China.
This foreign policy challenge was again in sharp relief at the recent Boao Forum, on the luxury resort on Hainan Island, China’s version of Hawaii (they also have their most advanced naval base there).
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It was at the bottom of the ocean that James Cameron felt alone, distant from humanity. But it was there that he was, perhaps, closer to us than he had ever been.
Earlier this week, the acclaimed director became the first person to solo-dive to the bottom of the Mariana Trench - one of the darkest, quietest places on the planet.
As the world applauded Cameron, billionaire Clive Palmer was holding court at a press conference in Brisbane, speaking about spooks and conspiracy theories and strange political follies. There were no submarines, blueprints or audacious concept drawings behind him. Just a man who had made enough money to say whatever he liked whenever the mood struck.
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This time a month ago the debate around the Gillard Government’s mining tax was still largely centred on the economic wisdom of using the tax system to target the one industry sector which was keeping the Australian economy humming along.
Most Australians are smart enough to know that the chief reason we have weathered the global economic storm is because every time you lift up a rock in Western Australia someone in China wants to give you half a million dollars. Despite the role of mining in our own little economic miracle the Gillard Government had set out to demonise the mining sector, or more accurately the biggest players in the mining sector, as being driven by a lust for profit off the back of natural riches belonging to all Australians.
There is a logical flaw at the centre of this argument, namely that while all these natural riches might belong to all Australians, most Australians have neither the resources nor the know-how to get them out of the ground. The companies that take the economic risks, tackle massively complex and dangerous issues of occupational safety, employ thousands of people in the process and return millions of dollars to shareholders – I’d say they have every right to be a bit peeved that they are suddenly being treated as self-interested villains.
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The massive sums and the wealthy characters in the bitter debate over the mining profits tax have swamped discussion of a plan to help the lowest paid Australians. This measure would address the painful worry of hundreds of thousands of working women that they will not be able to save money for retirement.
It is a move designed to avoid the unhappy destiny of many unskilled women - there are just over two million in the workforce - who at the end of their working lives face a struggle to survive.
It has bipartisan support to the extent that if the Government proceeds with it the Coalition, should it win government, would not wind it back. But it is rarely mentioned because the debate is anchored in the fate of billions of dollars, not in the futures of millions of the low paid.
Writer and activist Susan Sontag said: “I envy paranoids. They actually feel people are paying attention to them”.
People were quick to call mining giant Clive Palmer a ‘crackpot’ and a ‘nutjob’ for his bizarre claim that the Greens are a tool of the CIA being used to undermine mining. And they are wacky claims. But the human mind is an amazing thing and comes up with sophisticated ways to protect itself from the real world. He’s not simply ‘wacky’.
Conspiracy theories are a protective mechanism.
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It looks like Wayne Swan was onto something after all when he started his bad-tempered battering of mining billionaires. Maybe they aren’t like the rest of us. But if Mr Swan was right in theory, it took Clive Palmer to prove it by claiming the President of the United States was using spies to recruit Greens to wreck Australian coal mining.
Mr Palmer, one of the three billionaires the Treasurer has been taking swipes at, has started something that others might find extremely difficult to finish.
If the mining industry was worried the newly-passed Minerals Resources Rental Tax would deter investors, what sort of disincentive would come from an influential magnate claiming undercover agents in the open-cut mines?
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I can’t find one Coalition MP or fellow traveller who came to the defence of Cate Blanchett when last May she took part in a TV advertisement supporting a price on carbon.
There were plenty who shredded the internationally successful Australian actress, making the point that among those disqualified from speaking on climate change were internationally successful Australian actresses.
None of these shredders were accused by others of instigating class warfare against Blanchett, said to be worth from $53 million to $55 million. None were dismissed as being driven by envy.
Wayne Swan has discovered his voice. After telling us in no uncertain terms what he really thought of Kevin Rudd the week before last. Now Swannie has set his sights on our mining magnates.
In an essay in The Monthly, and in a speech due at lunch time today to the National Press Club, the Treasurer makes the argument that democracy is under threat from vested interests - and takes aim in particular at Clive Palmer, Twiggy Forrest and Gina Rinehart.
But his argument is not just limited to those who make their millions by digging things out of the ground. Swan is worried about our middle-class society being under “mortal threat”, essentially since the “Reagan-Thatcher revolutions”.
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The FFA has just terminated the A-League license of struggling Gold Coast United. This comes after a massive war of words between Franky Lowy and Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer, the latest instalment of which came today when Palmer tweeted: We intend to fight this ludicrous decision by incompetent FFA in the courts. Frank Lowy is an institution who now belongs in an institution.
As the battle rages on, here’s a nice wider perspective on the battle of the billionaires from first time Puncher and soccer nut Stewart Prins.
A-League football had one of its more mysterious moments on the weekend when colourful franchise owner Clive Palmer sent his Gold Coast United (GCU) team out onto the field with the message “Freedom of Speech” plastered across the front of their playing strip.
Neither Mr Palmer nor his Gold Coast United CEO Clive Messink offered an explanation for the late change to the playing strip, or for the advertising billboards quoting the same slogan.
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You couldn’t invent Clive Palmer. Well that’s not quite true, you could invent Clive Palmer, but you’d be told to go back and come up with something that was less of a caricature for a mining boss.
The Queensland mining magnate billionaire is quickly becoming the chief vioce of industry opposition to the Government’s Resource Super Profits Tax, and the Government love it.
Palmer is an easy target for the Government, epitomising every stereotype of a self-interested fat cat capitalist, a mere monocle and waistcoat away from being a cartoon character. As one Labor strategist said of Palmer “he’s our Joe McDonald.”
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