So welcome Clive Palmer, member of the House of Representatives for Fairfax.

Clive will provide plenty of colour and movement in federal Parliament, especially in spruiking his conspiracy theories about the CIA and the Greens, or the Australian Electoral Commission, or American Express.

But how long it takes Palmer to tire of life as an irrelevant backbencher remains to be seen. Politics, for anyone who takes it seriously, is a demanding job. And life as a marginal seat holder is hard work. Your electors want you to serve them, to help them with their difficulties, to act as their guide in securing assistance from government. Their problems, however trivial, are your problems — and if they’re not, then you won’t be round after the next election. It’s an unglamorous job and sitting there bored in question time while the action happens without you isn’t the worst of it. It’s very difficult to see Palmer making the transition from mining magnate to dutiful backbencher who is prepared to work hard for his constituents.

For Palmer, the real action will be in the Senate, where his expenditure of millions of dollars has secured him, if not necessarily the balance of power, then at the very least a major role in determining the fate of the government’s legislation — that’s if he can control his two PUP senators, a putative third from Western Australia pending the resolution of that debacle, and perhaps noted kangaroo and motoring fan Ricky Muir.

This outcome can only be considered satisfactory if voters can be assured Palmer’s senators are voting to reflect the interests of their states and the national interest, and not Palmer’s own personal interests. Never before has Australia faced such a blatant example of plutocracy, in which an immensely wealthy individual has obtained a political position via which he can, if he chooses, prosecute his own personal interests rather than those of voters.

The colour and movement is one thing. But there are fundamental issues raised by the position Clive Palmer has purchased in our federal parliamentary system.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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