tip off

‘Colin Barnett hiding in the desert’: King Clive holds court

Say what you will about Clive Palmer; the man knows how to woo the public. Crikey headed along to see the Cult of Clive first-hand.

Clive Palmer received an early Christmas present on the weekend in the form of an outside attack on one of his favourite targets, Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper. Like the Reverend Ian Paisley and the Catholic Church, these two are locked in a toxic, co-dependent embrace that will surely last until the Apocalypse and consume at least one of the participants.

Clive (like Madonna and Beyonce, only one name is needed) has been on Twitter all weekend republishing the (now-disputed) quote from former News Ltd boss Ken Cowley that “The Australian now is pathetic,” published on Saturday in The Australian Financial Review.

This was music to Palmer’s ears, coming on the heels of a vintage performance at the NSW Business Chamber on Friday morning (Crikey headed along to investigate the apparent allure of Clive in person). Over breakfast, and speaking in the style of an evangelical preacher, he repeated a few key phrases — “big government, bad,” “Rupert Murdoch, very bad”. In fact, if God had very bad adenoids (and hated News Corp), that’s probably what he would sound like.

Over and over, Clive used simple but emotive words: “Anzacs,” “the Southern Cross,” “World War II,” all of which have been used to sell anything from biscuits to cars and have the effect of making us feel good. At the end of the monologue he posed for photos for 20 minutes, with the good burghers of Sydney lining up like speed daters to bask in his presence.

I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years, and I’ve never seen the public treat a politician quite like this. Pauline Hanson had a devoted following, but most of her voters were the angry (and toothless) dispossessed. Although Clive is as cunning as an outhouse rat, he presents himself as the anti-politician; his support is much broader.

All up, it was a fabulous performance from the big man — get rid of provisional tax (very popular with that audience, who regard tax-avoidance as a human right), telling them that “our politicians are hopeless leaders,” together with a simple, three-point plan for getting rid of the deficit. Cutting the paid parental leave, the National Broadband Network and the South Australian submarines would save $90 million right there, he told us. The money saved could be used for higher education — the Palmer United Party opposes increases in university fees — and one of Clive’s favourite causes, giving money to the children of veterans, which is a kind of motherhood policy on steroids.

Like Bob Katter and other “mavericks,” Palmer’s appeal is due to the fact that in an age when politicians vote only along party lines, he is willing to swim outside the flags. Last week he said he wouldn’t vote for the deficit levy because there is no “budget emergency”; we have the third-lowest debt levels in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He also opposes the cuts to the unemployment benefit for young people — he had a four-month stint on the dole in his 20s — and spoke sincerely about areas like Tasmania and western Melbourne, which have high rates of youth unemployment. Palmer also vehemently opposes the lifting of pension age to 70, saying that people who work in strenuous jobs like construction should be able to retire and access their superannuation at 50.

The big man then breached this month’s fatwa —  making light of violence against women. He said that he went into politics because he wanted to get rid of Julia Gillard: “I couldn’t throttle her, so I had to get to Parliament to get rid of that woman.” Politically correct, he isn’t.

The talk ended in typical Palmer fashion, with the usual spat with a News Corp victim who dared to raise the claim by WA Premier Colin Barnett that Palmer has siphoned off millions of dollars from his Chinese business partners to fund the Palmer United Party’s election campaign.

Palmer vehemently denied this, saying, “I would know where we are taking it from,” before adding mysteriously, “the truth about Colin Barnett will come out in the next two weeks”. Given that Palmer’s previous conspiracy theories have included Wendi Deng being a Chinese spy and green groups being funded by the CIA (both incorrect), this one should be worth waiting for.

At the moment, Colin Barnett is hiding in the desert, too frightened to come out,” Palmer hissed darkly, sounding eerily like Joh Bjelke-Petersen. And then, with a final benediction for the media — “May God bless you all” — he was whisked away. Here endeth the lesson.

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  • 1
    zut alors
    Posted Monday, 2 June 2014 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    There are some stark & significant differences between Clive & Pauline -

    Clive gives us a laugh
    Clive is fearless, he doesn’t need the job or the salary
    Clive can fund all & any defamation cases, including against the News Corp gorilla
    Clive has compassion for refugees

    Australians see him as not liking politicians & certainly never kowtowing to them. Of course he’s in Canberra for self-interest but most of them are. Not all, but most.

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 2 June 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    A personal reference from Barnett - whose choice of heir apparent was Troy Buswell - “The Bloodhound of Bunbury”“?

  • 3
    paddy
    Posted Monday, 2 June 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    LOL “Outhouse rat”.
    You’re so polite Margot.
    (and a bit unfair to Rattus Rattus.)
    I’ve always felt Clive was more closely related to a
    razorback wild boar.
    Still, it’s fun to watch the dinosaurs ripping each other to shreds for a change.

  • 4
    Salamander
    Posted Monday, 2 June 2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    A smiley diversion he may be withiin our current execrable political landscape, but the worst thing about Clive is AGW denial, as per an ABC interview he did around election time last year.

  • 5
    Margot Saville
    Posted Monday, 2 June 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    thanks to all of you for your comments. But Salamander, what is AGW denial? I’m intrigued.

  • 6
    klewso
    Posted Monday, 2 June 2014 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    anthropogenic global warming?

  • 7
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    When, not if, he comes crashing to earth it will be a sad day for those who loathe the political sausage machine with its indistinguishable extrusions.
    The electorate is famished for credible non aligned MPs - look at the constantly rising votes for the late Peter Andren, the very current Xenophon and the lost lights of Windsor, Oakeshott, Ted Mack.
    If they could, the LibLabs would abolish the People and govern unfettered in the interests of their Master/s.

  • 8
    Bill Parker
    Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    I would like to know what Clive thinks about the renewable energy sector. Right now, some mines in WA are spending millions on diesel. One answer is to provide small power stations to satisfy the demand round the clock. I refer of course to Concentrated Solar Power. CSP is alive, working and entirely suitable. And in some cases does not require any subsidy to build ( i.e. no gas pipeline nearby) And there, they can be built with the benefit of the RET. So there it is Clive. The RET can be seen as an indirect subsidy to the mining industry and zero power station fuel costs forever.

  • 9
    Margot Saville
    Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Klewso, thank you! Yes, AR, Peter Andren is sadly missed isn’t he? And Oakeshott’s book makes it clear what a decent bloke he is. And now I know about CSP and RET - cheers Bill Parker.

  • 10
    Liamj
    Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    We need Clive, once we come out the other side of his 4th Reich then we’ll have a renewed interest in & appreciation of participatory democracy. Ok it didn’t work for post-Joh Qld, but i blame demographics & senility there.

    @ Bill P: CSP is a lovely idea, but if it is so affordable, why so few installations? Yes CSIRO invested lots in developing & trialed troughs & dishes, but then? are the dishes at Liddell NSW still running? i hear they have mothballed the facility near Bendigo. Generally isn’t it too expensive/high maintenance, & storing heat is leaky?

  • 11
    Bill Parker
    Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Liamj You are looking in the wrong place. CSP plants in Spain, Nevada and California are all operational and some for decades. As for high maintenance, no worse than coal/diesel fired units. And for example, some folks in Spain who have always been unemployed are now mirrors cleaners and happy to be so. Storing heat is anything but leaky - commonplace engineering found in numerous applications. I didn’t say specifically it was so affordable, I said it was competitive. Either way, you have to build power stations to run mines. Solar is cheaper over diesel. And as one fuel cost rises, the other never will.

    Australia’s governments have never been serious about CSP but even so, we are amongst the pioneers and leaders in the world. We have a 44MW CFLR plant at Kogan Creek nearing completion, Liddell plant(s) still going and another at Lake Cargellico.

    The mining industry in WA is very interested in what PV and CSP can do for them. So much so that a meeting in Kalgoorlie last year large numbers of mine managers attended and showed great interest.

    Are you still reading Clive….?

  • 12
    The Pav
    Posted Tuesday, 3 June 2014 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    I think Clive stumbled into politics and now he is there is trying to workout what his end game should be but make no mistake there will be a serious motive in there somewhere. I just haven’t worked out what

    Clive faces the problem of fighting on too many fronts

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