Aug 19, 2014

Clive of China no more — well, not this week anyway

Clive Palmer used to think Chinese investment was wonderful, that only racists tried to restrict it, and China was no threat. How times have changed...

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Absent from coverage of Clive Palmer's rant about China on The Tony Jones Democracy Hour last night was a little historical context: Clive Palmer until recently was one of the Chinese government's biggest boosters in Australia. Far from regarding the Chinese as Communist "mongrels" and "bastards" who "shoot their own people" and want to take over Australia, Clive has traditionally been effusive about the glories of China. Clive, after all, claims to have sat on the knee of Mao Zedong as a child, inducing a witticism from one of the twentieth century's greatest mass murderers. And he has hitherto been enormously positive about Chinese investment in Australia. In 2008 he addressed an Asia Society Luncheon on the topic of “Match Made in Heaven: Clive Palmer and his love for China.” Far from warning that they want to "take over this country" as he did last night, in 2011 Palmer lamented that:
“The Australian government has racially discriminated against (China) and stopped them from investing in Australia. They've brought in things like the Foreign Investment Review Board in Australia, which is an outstandingly racist legislation designed to slow down Chinese growth, and it's a national disgrace... China has never, ever wanted to dominate other countries or take control of what they're doing."
"Take over the country" or "never, ever wanted to dominate other countries" -- take your pick. There's a Clive quote for every occasion. Those 2011 remarks echoed comments from 2009, when he complained about "racist" restrictions on Chinese investment. And far from noting that "they haven't got a justice system", Palmer that year also urged the government to say nothing about China's treatment of jailed Rio Tinto executive Stern Hu as it might endanger trade relations. Palmer also ostentatiously snubbed visiting US president Barack Obama, whom he accused of driving a wedge between Australia and China, in 2011. “Why do you think the likes of the head of BHP and myself didn’t go to the dinner? It’s because we aren’t that stupid,” he said at the time. “We have real interests and know how the Chinese act.”
"Clive's transformation ... has, perhaps also by pure coincidence, occurred at the same time as his falling out with Chinese investors."
In the interval, though, more has changed than just Clive's hair colour. There's the small matter of his knock-down, drag-out fight with Chinese company Citic over iron ore exports, which has also been used by News Corp as part of its war on Clive (the Oz used to be fans of Clive, back when he was bankrolling the LNP; the forensic scrutiny from the likes of Hedley Lamarr only, by pure coincidence, began when he fell out with the Coalition). Clive's transformation from pro-China, pro-Chinese investment, anti-racist assuring us China doesn't want to dominate anything into the populist warning of "mongrels" and "bastards" who want to take over Australia has, perhaps also by pure coincidence, occurred at the same time as his falling out with Chinese investors. And so profound a transformation is this for Clive that Barnaby Joyce -- a longtime opponent of Chinese investment in Australia who once declared himself "amazed" that we allowed China to invest here -- thought Clive's comments about China were "not helpful". When you make Barnaby sound like the rational one, you've lost the plot.

Free Trial

You've hit members-only content.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

17 thoughts on “Clive of China no more — well, not this week anyway

  1. Chris Key

    The Chinese play a long game.

    Does Australia even know it needs a long game?

  2. allister lehan

    The Berlin wall fell in 1989 – and Gorbachev ended the soviet era – and china suppressed the students and cracked down – it is the last bastion of communist state in the world apart from the north Koreans – it invaded and occupied Tibet a sovereign state in 1949 and continues to do so – and it also suppresses, tortures and executes its own people – so when will it become Free ?As the west thinks it will due to capitalist economics….

  3. Lubo Gregor

    Chris, who needs a long game in a 24-hour news spin-propaganda cycle? We are on a track to the same regime as China has without 90% of our population even noticing it.

  4. Jaybuoy

    Perhaps the normally unctuous Palmer is taking the advice of the Foreign Minister and not showing any weakness as its not a quality endearing to the Chinese…that’ll do it..

  5. Franz Kafka

    Do not mislead readers Bernard and take those words out of their context and intention. The reference is to the Chinese government, not broadly ‘Chinese’. Last time I checked, that is not reference to a racial group. Let’s get real, stop playing the ‘racist’ card and deal in what should be more concerning…that Australia is being bought by a corrupt Chinese Communist government, whom are vastly different to the many Chinese people who have suffered under and reject this regime (of which many are migrants to this country). Read the books, well, the ones that aren’t censored and the subject of misleading propaganda.

  6. John Hamer

    Palmer demonstrated last night what a total buffoon he is. To claim (after the event) that he was referring to CITIC and not the Chinese is absurd, and shows that he takes us for bigger fools than ever. He has done irreparable damage to our relationship with China. Put this in perspective: Clive Palmer’s wealth fell heavily this year from $2.2 billion to $1.2 billion after a spate of problems at the Pilbara iron ore mine that forms the basis of his fortune (i.e. his wealth halved). Cost blowouts and delays have plagued the project. So what does Palmer do? He looks to divert attention by suing the developer (CITIC) over royalty payments. I hope he loses spectacularly! Similarly, the value of Palmer’s Coolum Resort has plummeted under Palmer’s ownership and there too, he is in dispute with apartment owners. Can PUP supporters expect similar results in Canberra?”

  7. peterh_oz

    Even without his follow-up tweet I took his statements as being directed at the system, and not the race/population. Maybe he is now speaking his mind, whereas a few years ago he couldn’t due to business interests.

  8. Dennis Bauer

    A very wealthy American business person was reported to have said, “you do not need democracy to gain vast personal wealth” and of course that person was right, in this capitalist society you take your work to the lowest wage area’s of the world, which will return the highest profits. Does not matter what ideology they are as long as some one can organise them to work for next to nothing.
    A lot of us chose not to be overly wealthy, or wealthy,
    some of us are happy that way, we can see a lot further.
    Why should we be penalised by the wealthy for not wanting to keep them insanely wealthy.

  9. Bill Hilliger

    The LNP coalition government is being a bit precious with respect to the latest China issue. Clive and Barnaby are like peas in the same pod. Remember Barnyards Cubby Station tirade a few years ago? Furthermore the US troops stationed in Darwin.

  10. Maxwell von Richthofen

    I think this post puts some balance on things thanks for that , what an occurrence one minute the crowd were applauding Clive laughing at his jokes next minute he shoots himself in the head, an amazing bit of viewing . All with wong sitting in the middle hahaha crazy stuff . We were sat there gob smacked thinking no Clive no ! Clive no shut up no Noooo !! because we knew the next day that’s what the headline would be , rather than the absolute drubbing warren truss and the LNP recieved on that show. I would be worried if I was in that party they are much hated in Scotland as well, John Falzon was making these inspired speeches about the change coming from below and the cruelty of it all people were clapping you could see the emotion in it the anger the community the fight ! . Then he had to go there didn’t he, Tonto Jones husband of Sarah Fergusson had to poop the party and ask Clive his “walk out question”. Clive is an un diciplined idiot he should have just said next question, when will he learn ? hes a billionaire he smart right ? wrong . Now even hockey has come back out of hiding with a renewed vigor. I agree Bernard when I saw Barney Joyce steering the commentary I thought hang on – solemn words on china , Mr cubbie station himself. blah

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details