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Is Clive Palmer the de facto Prime Minister?

It’s an odd sounding question but not without foundation. Clive Palmer’s bombshell press conference with Al Gore where he announced his party’s voting intentions in the Senate on Wednesday June 25th gave a pretty clear indication that he was calling the shots on the repeal, or otherwise, of the carbon tax. And, one must say that he delivered the news in an almost prime ministerial-like manner.

The announcement, however, had broader ramifications. One gets the feeling that Clive is starting to flex his political muscle. Having such a high profile climate change advocate as Al Gore standing alongside makes for a pretty impressive beginning.

It tells us all that Clive has drawing power. The expectation that something big was about to happen prior to the announcement suggests he also has a good PR team. The media were there in numbers. One might well ask what other plans he has to demonstrate his ability to capture media interest.

The detail of the announcement is also highly significant. It shows that Clive can influence the Abbott government’s climate policy in a way other opposition parties can’t, although he should have known that an emissions trading scheme is already legislated and ready to kick in next year. The question now is: how tough will Clive be and how easily will Abbott roll over.

A better approach for Clive would have been to announce that his support for repealing the carbon tax be conditional on the existing legislation covering the emissions trading scheme being retained. That, I think, is something that might still be negotiable if the Greens are able to have a word in his ear.

But, the broader point has been made. Tony Abbott is the prime minister, but not the primary decision maker. The government are about to learn who has the power. For the three years Julia Gillard was prime minister, Tony Abbott frustrated, intimidated and blocked Labor from implementing much in its agenda. Now, the shoe is on the other foot. Abbott is receiving some of his own medicine and it is anybody’s guess right now just how far that will extend from next week.

hockey hoHere’s the rundown on the current situation provided by Penny Wong in an email I received today, as I’m sure did many others:
Appropriation Bills have passed the Senate. We will never do what the Coalition did in 1975.
Scrapping the Schoolkids Bonus and the Low Income Superannuation Contribution. The Government sought to scrap Labor’s Schoolkids Bonus and Low Income Superannuation Contribution as part of its bill to repeal the Minerals Resources Rent Tax. Labor voted against this bill in the Senate and it was defeated in March.
Deficit reduction levy. This increases the top tax rate for people earning more than $180,000 a year. While it represents a broken promise, Labor did not oppose this measure in the Senate because it is targeted at those on very high incomes. The legislation has now passed Parliament.
GP and Medicines Taxes. Labor will vote against the new taxes of $7 per GP visit and $5 per chemist prescription when legislation comes into the Parliament.
Increasing university fees and student debt. Labor will vote against these measures.
Cutting indexation of pensions. We’ll will vote against these cuts when legislation is brought into the Parliament.
Increasing petrol taxes. Labor will vote against the Government’s plans to increase fuel excises because of the cost of living impact on low and middle income earners.
It is going to be a test of Abbott’s ability to successfully negotiate a variety of deals from now on; something about which he is, thus far, untested. His inability to discern truth from untruth, deception from commitment and his apparent lack of empathy for other people’s pain, will be centre stage. It will expose him to a process he has not previously experienced. How will he respond?

ryleyOne only needs to recall that bizarre moment in 2011 when pressed by Channel 7’s Mark Riley to explain his ‘shit happens’ comment in respect of a deceased Australian soldier. Abbott froze, unable to speak. Mark Riley penetrated a particular area of Abbott’s psyche that failed him. What was going through his mind? If he was unable to negotiate that particular style of questioning what other ‘moments’ await?

When one analyses Palmer’s policies and juxtaposes them with comments he has already made about the budget as well as his attitude to pensioners and families generally, one might be forgiven for thinking he is more socially minded than we first thought; that he might in fact have more in common with Labor than the LNP. Labor’s intention is to work with the Palmer United Party and other cross bench senators to oppose the Budget’s unfair cuts. Tony Abbott is about to realise what it is like to be in government but feel powerless.

As things stand, Clive Palmer is the one with the power.


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  1. Keitha Granville

    I am concerned about Clive – on the one hand he seems genuine that he wants to look after the “ordinary people”. But then he changes his mind failry easily about things, so how far can he be trsuted ? If something comes along that works for him tomorrow, will he change his mind again ? I’m just not sure . . . .

  2. Möbius Ecko

    “As things stand, Clive Palmer is the one with the power.”

    Yep Clive Palmer has very effectively countervailed Prime Minister Credlin.

  3. Edward Eastwood

    A good article John. It now raises the question that if the LNP continues to have its bills blocked by the Senate – will Abbott have the bottle to call a D.D.?

    Whether the answer is yes or no, the one thing you can be certain of is that in the coming months News Ltd will certainly crank up the ‘mandate machine’

    What’s the bet we’ll all be able to watch the weasel words fly thick and fast to convince the average punter that being voted into government is the equivalent of having the right to rule unobstructed by the opposition or protests from the hoi-polloi.

  4. Dion Giles

    Passing the appropriation Bills was a big tick to the Coalition of the Lying’s programme of impoverishment of the already poor and enrichment of corporate business. Also an “all is forgiven” for Lib collaboration with the CIA coup of 1975.

  5. Catriona Thoolen

    There is a constant refrain that Clive Palmer ‘changes his mind’ So far, he has not disappointed me at all. I had a few concerns abou Uni fees, but he clarified the next day that he felt there should no cap on what students from overseas are changed and in his opinion, Uni should be fully funded for Australian students.

    If you go back to policies announced by PUP prior to Federal election, very little has changed. The only change that comes to mind was the repeal and ‘reimbursement’ of carbon tax, which has been removed as a requirement for support of repeal. To my mind this shows that Clive and our senators are willing to change a stance, that PUP policies are not ideological and not set in stone. If more information changes the situation, or understanding of situation, PUP is willing to rethink policies.

    The main aim of all PUP policies is to improve lives and lifestyle in Australia for all Australians, as far as that is possible.

    Stop looking for sneaky hidden agendas, I do not believe they exist.

  6. Wayne Turner

    Just as the Liberal party attacked Julia Gillard for being ran by the Greens when she had to form an minority government.

    This current Labor party MUST use a similar tactic – This Liberal Party is being ran by Clive Palmer and his PUP.Sadly,I don’t see Shorten and co having the GUTS to do it 🙁 I hope they prove me wrong….

  7. Wayne Turner

    On another,but similar note: Clive stands for Clive,stands for Clive……

    He baught his way into power and influence.What a democracy – NOT! 🙁

  8. John Kelly

    Margaret- Rose: send an email to
    and ask them to add your email to their list.

  9. Trevor

    Clive the Coalminer and Dinosaur collector learned well from years with bjleke in qland as numero uno in paperbag stuffing.

    The bjleke descendants in Qland today pissed Clive off so he began his own Political Party and proceede to buy PUP votes just as LNP always has.

    Now Clive is The ring master with the Abbott Adult Circus and Clive the Coalminer does as he always has.

    Clive looks after Clive.

  10. DanDark

    nope it dosnt but I just followed the pages till I could sign up for emails from labor party

  11. MIssPamela

    I too am concerned about Clive’s motives and what he will actually do. He is only going to do what is best for him.

    Sorry – off the topic, but as an advocate for those with Autism and Asperger’s in the education system for many years I find comments linking T. Abbott to those with Asperger’s offensive. Many with Aspergers are highly empathic. They may have difficulty showing it the same way you and I do. There are two types of empathy – cognitive and emotional. Recent research has shown those with AS do not lack emotional empathy. For example, I recently interviewed a young person with AS who cried for days about the trees after seeing the The Lorax. I could provide many other examples.
    T. Abbott has neither cognitive or emotional empathy. When you look at a lack of empathy as a personality disorder, the links go immediately to Narcissicism

    “Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is characterized by a “lack of empathy” as well as a pervasive pattern of grandiosity and need for admiration (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).” provides an indepth description as per DSM-1V.

    The link below is to an article on narcissistic leaders (and there seem to be many) both good and bad. Interesting reading.

    I think a better way of describing him is having Narcissistic-like symptoms rather than Asperger-like symptoms.

    On another note – would Palmer also fit some where in the description of narcissistic leaders? Maybe why they have clashed in the past.

  12. Evan

    I seem to remember Clive Palmer saying when he first announced that he was running for a seat in parliament “that he wanted to be prime minister”.
    Everyone laughed at him for this statement since of course to attain that position one has to command the vote of the majority of the house of representatives, but perhaps Clive is looking to a much longer game to achieve his ambitions.

    Just postulating.

  13. Lee

    “His inability to discern truth from untruth, deception from commitment and his apparent lack of empathy for other people’s pain, an Aspergers-like symptom, will be centre stage.”

    It is not actually true that people with Asperger’s Syndrome lack empathy. We often do feel empathy but are commonly unable to express it. I recall watching an interview with Prof Tony Attwood, an authority of the condition and respected worldwide, who said that people with AS are some of the kindest people he has ever met. I don’t recall meeting anyone with AS, either in person or online, who does not have left wing values. A right wing AS might exist somewhere, but given the difficulties we experience, I really cannot imagine anyone with AS identifying with some of the fundamental right wing beliefs.

    There is nothing I see in Tony Abbott that is consistent with Asperger’s. In fact, I doubt that anyone with Asperger’s could be a successful politician, certainly not at state or federal level. We have a tendency to say what we think, generally we’re quite honest people, we don’t play games, the sensory overload associated with the politician’s life would be extremely difficult to deal with and we’re very uncomfortable with eye contact. That’s just for starters.

  14. Lee

    These are the PUP’s policies listed on its website.


    Palmer United Party stands for and is committed in its efforts and vision to carry out the following functions:

    Party Officials should not be Lobbyists, thereby taking a strong position on Paid Political Lobbyists, saving tax payers dollars and introducing Fair Policies

    Abolish the Carbon Tax

    Revising the current Australian Government’s Refugee Policy to ensure Australia is protected and refugees are given opportunities for a better future and lifestyle

    Creating Mineral Wealth to continuously contribute to the welfare of the Australian community. This will be achieved by utilising mineral resources from Queensland and Western Australia, and incentives from the Commonwealth of Australia to establish downstream processing in the States of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia; and exporting products at a higher dollar value, thereby creating more revenue, jobs, tax and more facilities.

    Establishing a System where people create wealth in various parts of the country and for that wealth to flow back to the Community that generates the wealth. For example, if a particular region creates wealth, a significant percentage of that wealth should go back to the region.

  15. Lee

    “It now raises the question that if the LNP continues to have its bills blocked by the Senate – will Abbott have the bottle to call a D.D.?”

    No Edward, that was a non-core promise. 😉

  16. MIssPamela

    Thank you Lee. You said what I was trying to convey much more succinctly and powerfully as you speak from personal experience.
    I have not met a person with Asperger’s without a highly developed sense of social justice, even at 5 years of age or younger, which would account for the fact that they are all left-wing. They would not be able to accept right wing philosophies.

  17. Evan

    As an addendum to my previous post.
    With Clive Palmer we have a man who has more money than he can spend in the rest of his life, perhaps the fun has gone out of just accumulating more money and he is looking for new interests, new challenges.

    I actually live quite close to Clive and see him frequently down at the local village shops. Without knowing who he is you would never pick him as a billionaire, so long as you don’t see him getting into or out of the Roller of course.

    He doesn’t put on any performance to attract attention or throw his weight around. He appears to treat the local business people with politeness and respect and is invariably dressed in an open necked shirt and no jacket.

    All in all without actually knowing him I quite respect him.

  18. Don Winther

    hubris ( Abbott )
    hubris or hybris —n. 1. pride or arrogance. 2. (in Greek tragedy) an excess of ambition, pride, etc, ultimately causing the transgressor’s ruin. [C19: from Greek]. An Abbott.

    Clive is ok, so far.

    Good article John.

  19. corvus boreus

    Another article featured a post suggesting Abbott was a “dark triad”.
    This is, apparently, a combination of narcissism, machiavellianism and psychopathy/sociopathy.
    It seemed to fit.

  20. John Kelly

    To Miss Pamela and Lee, I feel I may have done a great disservice to those with Asperger’s disorder. I certainly did not mean it. A close family member of mine is affected that way and your comment, Miss Pamela that,”I have not met a person with Asperger’s without a highly developed sense of social justice,” is true of people affected. In my haste to emphasize Abbott’s lack of empathy, I chose my wording poorly. I apologise to you both for that. I have met Tony Attwood and read his work. I think he would be very disappointed in me for that comment. I have since removed it from the article. I hope you will put it down to a brain fade and not judge me too harshly.

  21. DanDark

    Sometimes when we are passionate about something/someone our words run faster than our brains can keep up, it’s called being human, so John K was just being human, and when humans realise they may have made an inappropriate statement unwittingly hurting someone indirectly, we apologise once, with a clear honest explanation of why our passion ran in front of our brain 🙂
    We are not all economic robots yet…..

  22. RalphG

    I really wonder about Clive Palmer when he says things like:

    “We’ve got the NBN, spending AU$45 billion on the NBN to get better internet coverage in Australia. If we have a look at the country, we break it down, there’s really only about an AU$7 billion worth of expenditure where we need to go to places where there is no internet coverage for commerce and business and infrastructure to grow,” Palmer said.

    “If we look at places like Sydney, Melbourne, there is good domestic demand there and industry can meet those needs, and so they should. Government can’t be efficient.”

  23. auntyuta

    It is going to be interesting to see how Clive Palmer is going to influence Australian politics in future.

  24. MIssPamela

    Thank you, John Kelly, you are not the first to equate Abbott’s lack of empathy with Asperger’s and I am sure you did not intend any disservice. Unfortunately people are not as aware of the other reasons a person could lack empathy.

    covus boreus – I posted on the Dark Triad previously and still feel this covers all the various traits we see in this man – but I am not a psychiatrist. The Narcissistic bit certainly cover the lack of empathy and some other behaviour traits. The rest are covered by psychopathy and machiavellianism (ie lying, manipulating, exploiting etc etc).
    Unfortunately a lot of the front bench of the government seem to share these behaviour traits.

  25. mark delmege

    Cane Toad Palmer

    Toxic Pernicious and Feral

  26. corvus boreus

    Thought it might have been you, MissPamela, your moniker seemed familiar, but I was too lazy to backtrack. Thanks for the links you posted back then; very revealing into the mindset of the ‘power-players’.
    I had a previous partner who studied psychology, she gave me some insights into the field, including some very hurtful but revelatory (if biased) diagnoses when our relationship fractured.

  27. Lee

    “To Miss Pamela and Lee, I feel I may have done a great disservice to those with Asperger’s disorder. I certainly did not mean it. ”

    No hard feelings, John. There is a lot of information around about Asperger’s which includes a statement that we don’t experience empathy, and most people are not in a position to realise that it is incorrect. That information is a source of great annoyance to people with AS, especially when it is used to compare us with psychopaths. 😉

  28. Dan Rowden

    Setting aside the increasing and unforgivably ignorant use of Asperger’s as a means to cast aspergions (pun intended) upon Abbott (kudos John for fixing that), I don’t get this stuff about Abbott lacking empathy. I hate to be so candid – well, actually, that’s not really true, I love being candid – but I find it utterly vapid. There is exactly zero evidence that Abbott suffers from any sort of psychological malady that causes him to lack it. He does not lack empathy. It’s just that his ideological framework and values cause him to direct his empathetic impulses towards social groups different from us. Does anyone seriously think or can show evidence that he has no empathy with his own daughters? That he has no empathy with conservatives of his own ilk, Catholics, business people, the rich, Anglophobes, monarchists, his accountant? Yes, he gives every impression that he lacks empathy for the poor, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, but that’s because he doesn’t particularly like them. His worldview doesn’t allow him to feel sympathy for them, so empathy is automatically off the table. He also lacks the personal experience that often drives empathetic feelings for a particular social group. He’s never done it tough his whole cushy life. But I find this assertion that he lacks empathy, at some sort of pathological level, to be nonsense on stilts.

  29. mark delmege

    I’d ‘you beaut’ that if I had a button Dan

  30. David Linehan

    Palmer has the votes Abbott needs, that’s the extent of Palmer’s influence. If he didn’t have the votes Abbott would not giver him the time of day unless!!! There is a wad of loot to be received from the coal dust.
    Abbott still shares the warmth of Credlin, believe it.

  31. Lee

    ‘Like’, Dan Rowden.

  32. MIssPamela

    Point well made, Dan Rowden.
    Sometimes I guess we try to find a reason / excuse for Abbott’s actions and his inability to relate to certain people / groups. It is probably, as you say, that he has no personal experience outside his own sheltered social group and has no liking for anyone who does not fit into this group. This article discusses what makes a good political leader. One of the characteristics is “someone willing to listen to the needs of the common people and to represent them faithfully”. Mr Abbott does not even pretend to do this.

  33. Graeme Henchel

    It is interesting to compare the possible motives of Abbott and. Palmer and their propensity to change position. In my view Abbott is motivated by ideology and power but also has a pragmatic streak. In he past he would readily change his position if it thought it would gain him power. And it worked. However now he is in power and his ideological motivation is dominant destroy the left and implement his Tea Party agenda. Will he change, you bet as soon as he realises he is in danger of losing power. No one can trust this guy not even his backers. Clive on the other hand is a billionaire who was snubbed and felt undervalued so he bought his way in to power to show those people who snubbed him how significant he should be. So Clive does not want power so much as a feeling of importance and respect. Now that he has the power he also has some responsibility. I don’t know for sure but I think he is taking this responsibility seriously and his motivations are changing. I think he wants to leave a legacy. He has a choice between being considered a self interested billionaire buffoon or someone who actually tried to make the country and the planet a better place. Abbott is a lying sociopath bereft of ideas other than opposition and destruction. Clive is an opportunist and a populist but also someone who is starting to believe some of his own Rhetoric. Clive still talks a lot of shit sometimes but I don’t see him being in the same lying league as the mendacious monk

  34. Dan Rowden

    I think it’s fair to say the Clive is something of a political enigma at present. However, it’s not possible to ignore his reality as a corporate/mining magnate. It means conflict of interest concerns will accompany most of the political decisions he makes and stances he takes. His position in contemporary Australian politics is far too “American” for my liking, especially when taken in concert with the neo-conservative agenda currently in play.

  35. Kaye Lee

    Tony’s own words about his feelings of empathy

    “l felt “had” by a seminary that so stressed ”empathy” with sinners and “dialogue” with the Church’s enemies that the priesthood seemed to have lost its point.”

    Tony’s lack of empathy was highlighted when he was given the role of infirmarian at the seminary, a job that involved supervising the medicine cabinet and ensuring that the ill were not forgotten in their rooms.

    “My view was that I knew nothing about medicine and that those too sick to eat in the dining room ought to be in hospital. Anyway, I thought, most were malingering. So I encouraged “self-service” of medicines and suggested that meals would be better fetched by the friends of the sick. Many deeply resented this disdain for college’s caring and communitarian ethos. And, I confess, I did not have the courage to refuse room service to members of the seminary staff.”

  36. MissPamela

    OMG Kaye Lee! I hadn’t read that before. That is “conservatives of his own ilk, catholics” he is referring to not “the poor or the disenfranchised”. He clearly did not like his fellow seminarians. One wonders who he actually does like – only those who can serve his political and ideological interests?

  37. Kaye Lee


    He hasn’t changed.

    “The study of theology did not capture Tony’s imagination. He did passably well; not as well as his academic background may have indicated. I do not recall that he ever talked about theology while at Manly. His concern was with churchmanship.”

  38. David Linehan

    I would put money on the homophobic would be student priest was also horrified to be in the company of homosexuals and probably had the odd proposition, which wouldn’t have assisted in convincing him the priesthood was all peaches and cream as a dessert.
    As usual toxic never mentions the facts that are not to his liking, a wimp in reality, beneath the tough guy bravado.
    Despicable creature that he is.

  39. Dan Rowden

    I actually think Abbott’s statements about homosexuality are more honest than the average Australian male, or female, is willing to be about the subject. You think the average Aussie bloke isn’t intimidated or uncomfortable at some level by homosexuality? What universe are you inhabiting?

  40. Kaye Lee

    Dan, I am uncomfortable thinking about ANYONE else’s sexuality. I don’t like anyone thinking about MY sexuality. I’m not threatened at all…I am uncomfortable, just as I am when another couple gets too amorous in front of me or a friend goes into unnecessary detail about private matters or when you envisage your parents having sex. It just isn’t relevant to my dealings with anyone but my husband.

  41. MissPamela

    Thank you for the link. That story was published before I found AIMN so I hadn’t read it.
    Very enlightening

  42. Jules

    Yeah, nah Dan. Honestly don’t give a stuff about where people sit in the spectrum of sexuality. This is coming from a 35 year old straight middle class white male.

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