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What does Clive Palmer want?

The first Joe Hockey budget is about to be presented to parliament and to the people. There has been plenty of speculation about cuts to pensions and introducing Medicare co-payments, but it would still take a brave journalist to try and pre-empt what it will really contain. However, if any of the language being used both by Hockey and other ministers is close to the mark, it seems this government will dodge what is really needed. The one unknown they will have to contend with is Clive Palmer and his senate team. Will Clive roll over and wave the bills through the senate or will he make Abbott and Hockey sweat? Labor would do well to take a much closer look at this interesting development in the Australian political setting. Is it possible that the Palmer United Party isn’t all that concerned about the carbon tax and the mining tax and will not support its repeal? It’s possible.

While there is ample room for Hockey to cut some wasteful programs put in place by the Howard government, the real problem is falling revenue. And that means increasing taxes across the board. It also means NOT removing them, as in the case of the carbon tax and the mining tax. It means dumping election policy commitments such as Direct Action and the Paid Parental Leave Scheme. But is any of this likely to happen?

All the signs at the moment suggest not. Rather than upset their own constituency too early in the piece they will, I suspect, hit the broader community, the aged, the disadvantaged, the unhealthy, students and families; those areas where they think traditional Labor supporters most likely nest. That is their usual form. Apart from a brief period when the Howard government had shiploads of money coming in and looked like losing the 2004 and 2007 elections did they shower money on the very areas they will now attack to balance the budget. All the speculation and the rhetoric point us in this direction. Yet all of this could be avoided if they were to concentrate their efforts on the other side of the ledger, i.e. revenue. There are plenty of opportunities to raise additional revenue from increased personal tax to the GST to diesel fuel excise, but that means breaking election promises.

In the meantime Clive Palmer’s success at elections has opened up the possibility of a new dimension to his political aims, whatever they were or are now. His recent comments and his Northern Territory coup d’état suggest he is more interested in appealing to the broader electorate than furthering his own business interests. He opposes any cuts to pensions and has ridiculed the Coalition’s Direct Action approach to climate change. He also has a keen eye on the Victorian State election in November this year. All indications are that Labor will regain office after four years of Liberal mismanagement and disunity. A good showing for the PUP in Victoria could convince him that his political ambitions weren’t misplaced and that the next federal election could bring even more influence in the running of the country. To that end he would likely be persuaded to appeal to a broader base across the country.

The Commission of Audit has done its job and we should know its recommendations this week. In an atmosphere strikingly similar to the Henry Tax Report, Hockey will likely cherry pick the items that best suit the Coalition mindset. Much will be made of what is perceived as broken promises and the spin doctors will tell us otherwise. They will try to avoid another Gonski debacle. This time they will use well crafted language to justify their decisions. But the electorate will see through it anyway. And this time, Abbott and Hockey will also have to contend with Clive.

I suspect Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey are asking the question: What does Clive really want? It deserves more thought than most journalists are giving it. We only have to recall the success Don Chipp and his Australian Democrats had with disaffected voters in the eighties and nineties. There is a similar feeling in the air today and I think Clive Palmer has sensed it. Politics is an infectious animal. Popularity can be an alluring, beckoning charmer. Power is a far greater aphrodisiac than personal success and the timing couldn’t be better. I suspect the electorate is already well and truly over Tony Abbott. His leadership credentials just don’t stack up. There were similar thoughts about Malcolm Fraser in the late seventies. That prompted Don Chipp to make his move. His ‘keep the bastards honest’ campaign resonated well with disaffected liberals who then split their preferences equally between The Coalition and Labor. It could happen again. We know from similar past forays that the Palmer United Party probably won’t last. The DLP, the Democrats and One Nation are a testament to that. But for the time they are here they can wield enormous influence in the short term.

Joe Hockey’s management of the economy is the key. If he stuffs up as John Howard did when he was treasurer in the Fraser government, the Coalition will be in deep trouble with no small contribution from Clive Palmer. History has a way of repeating itself when no one pays attention to what is really happening.


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  1. Graeme Rust

    I guess Victorian voters will see if Mr Palmer is good at his word on the senate voting?? then we can see which way their vote will go.

  2. John Kelly

    Reblogged this on THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN and commented:

    Will Clive roll over and wave the bills through the senate or will he make Abbott and Hockey sweat?

  3. David Linehan

    Title of your article John accurately poses many more questions about this man and how he will direct his Senators voting.
    While he may well negotiate with Abetz behind closed doors with Abbott (on behalf of Institute of Public Affairs) having the final say, I see this as a vote by vote proposition. Palmer will be loving his time in the sun, threatening to oppose Govt legislation, hinting at bringing on a Double Dissolution, which I doubt will ever eventuate, Abbott is too cowardly to wear that. Defeat or thin majority will see him booted, mummy would not be pleased.
    What really intrigues me is how PUP co-exists with the Greens. While Labor has usually been as one with the Greens, except on off shore processing and that equally mindless shambles over carbon pricing, the two are generally in agreement over major policy decisions. This of course annoys the Torys to distraction and I find it all delightfully wicked. The not so feigned anger from Govt Senators is delicious to watch, Brandis in particular does his blood pressure no favours.
    Should be interesting times ahead following the long recess,the new President and Deputy will need to be made of strong stuff. Penny Wong for one is at her best in the midst of a scrap
    A final word re Palmer. He would do well to reflect on the time he spends away from the job he was elected to do, being a Member of Parliament. That is, actually attending his place of work. In that environment he is like millions of his fellow Australians, another worker being paid to do a job, that means be there.

  4. Dr. Lynne De Weaver

    I really think your analysis is spot on – Clive & his party will certainly be the ‘elephant’ in the uppe rhouse!

  5. john921fraser


    Clive's alright for the time being, if one subscribes to the theory of loving your enemies enemy.

    Currently the moron Abbott is furiously backpedaling in case someone notices that he attracted the worlds attention to …. nothing.

    This bloke had a bit to say about it a month ago :

    "Pieces of aluminium sink." ….. appears like someone has now imparted this bit of scientific fact to the moron Abbott.

  6. jimhaz

    Until I read this today, i was sure Palmer would be super keen to get rid of the CT and Mining Tax.

    Now I’m not so sure on the Mining tax. It is starting to look like it wont really affect him.

    The CT however he will attempt to remove as his supporters are for the most part Tea Party types (traditionalists and libertarians who are not that good at seeing the big picture, but interested enough to know something is not right).

  7. xiaoecho

    petergarciawebb…..404 Nothing Found

  8. diannaart

    I do know it is going to be interesting.

    At the very least the LNP cannot afford to be too complacent anymore than Labor – the big PUP is a Joker – and more than a bit wild.

  9. diongiles

    Hiking the GST shouldn’t even be considered. These liars banged on about Great Big (Labor) Taxes yet the Greatest, Biggest Tax on the population was and is the GST, imposed on the lot of us by the Libs to fund a huge reduction of company tax rates. They would, if they are dinkum about avoiding Great Big Taxes, slash the GST rate and instead hike the company tax rate. Broad-based indirect taxes are a weapon against those with the lowest incomes. The predators are ominously circling around the current GST with a view to increasing it, and every peep out of them on this should be vigorously opposed and hopefully kerzonked in the Senate. Couldn’t think of a better issue for a double dissolution followed by an election campaign in which Labor and the Greens lay class reality on the line.

  10. VoterBentleigh

    While Clive Palmer is is interested in promoting business interests, he is a Liberal rather than a Conservative. There is no doubt that Clive Palmer is an astute businessman and understands when a policy is good for business. He is distinguished from Tony Abbott’s Coalition which encorages and propounds reactionary Conservative policies. In fact, Mr Abbott’s Government’s policies and pronouncements have helped foster very extreme views within the community.

    Mr Palmer is unlikely to support ideological Conservative policies which he regards as anti-Liberal or purely ideological without any benefit to business.

    All this suggests Mr Palmer will support the repeals of the carbon and mining taxes, but he will not necessarily support other policies of the Abbott government which he might regards as poor policy for business or against traditional Liberal values. It is very unlikely that he will support the Coalition’s Direct Action plan, because he sees it as costing money and an impostion on business for no benefit. Mr Palmer has the business brain to see a plan which will achieve nothing.

    The Abbott Government have a problem, because Mr Palmer has media attraction, political adroitness, business acumen and enough money not to be cowered by the Federal Coalition, which is why the Federal Coalition and Coalition States are out to undermine Mr Palmer’s power at every opportunity. The Coalition want a Senate which they can manipulate rather than one with which they have to negotiate.

  11. Don Winther

    Zero GST on Australian Made and all imported goods should have 30% Import Duty. That will get you some good honest cash “FreeTradeTony”
    We imported $20 billion ( exported $20 Billion Aussie Dollars ) just on imported cars last year and killed our own manufacturing and jobs. Sure Holden, Ford and even Toyota would rather be importers than local manufacturers but this government should have just said “No your not going because we are putting 30% import duty on all imports” like every other country does. Keatings level playing field is bull shit. Ford imported 200,000 cars last year, they should have been made here. We cant even make a washing machine in Australia, or a fridge, we cant make a TV or a radio or a toaster or a tap. What sort of 3rd world country is this. This place is run by Lawyers driving BMWs looking for a soft seat in Canberra and a big fat early pension. The Public Funded Millionaires Club. Come on Clive stir them up, help Australia because Australia has done a lot for you.

  12. Stephen Tardrew

    John I don’t hold out much hope for Palmer. Fly in the ointment yes but the industrialized worlds swing to the right is not helping at all. So much rides upon success of the US economy strengthening so the Aussie dollar revalues to a more traditional level. China’s Banking is also looking shaky. Europe is still a basket case and austerity is a failure. False confidence in investment in digital money markets while banks fear providing new loans for business upstarts or consolidation of successful businesses hit by venture capitalists. Housing remains at risk of another bubble. These are deep and complex structural problems.

    Clive knows coal is on borrowed time and self-interest is going to prevail. Business is business after all. Obviously there is a structural problem with international finances that is not being faced squarely leading to increased inequality, poverty and slowing down of once vibrant economies. I fail to see what the hell will be gained by Palmer other than shoving it to Abbott from a personal perspective. Also has a visceral dislike of Murdoch. Strange character and strange times. Even if he captures Democrat or One Nation types we know where that is headed.

    Left and right are ignoring the fact that neoconservatism and supply side economics is a structural failure but they are loath to let go of the investment banking golden goose. Deregulation brought this on and though some controls have been returned they are far from the stabilizing effect of Glass Steagall.

    So much is about confidence and while Abbott and Hockey talk down the Australian economy what hope is there of recovery. Great go ahead and tell the world we are broke: now that’s going to help. Unless Palmer willingly attacks austerity and looks towards growth with confidence we are in for a long haul whereby the poor and underprivileged wear the bulk of real suffering. What to do?

  13. Hotspringer

    I hope (one may dream, yes?) that Clive Palmer realises he has sufficient funds for all his needs and realises he enjoys the adoration of the public. In any case, he couldn’t possibly be worse than the loony tea party the LNP.

  14. Douglas Evans

    Palmer wants power, that much is clear. What he wants to do with it is not currently clear to me (or perhaps to him). Palmer wants to see those who have mocked him and frustrated his business ambitions suffer. That much is clear. How he intends to achieve this is not clear to me (or perhaps to him). Given the economically shaky state of his business ventures and the huge amount of ‘carbon tax’ he owes it’s hard to see his Party opposing the repeal of the clean energy legislation but again – who knows. He’s not boring, he’s unpredictable, he’s politically smart and he’s surfing a huge and increasing wave of disaffection with the ‘old’ parties who between them could only claim a little over two out of every three votes at present.

    Tony Windsor writing in the Saturday Paper wants the crowd of minor parties in the senate to combine to implement a federal equivalent of the various State based ICACs and IBACs. That would be extremely interesting I think, if they could bring that about. Would Palmer back this? Who knows what pies he has his fingers in? The ‘old’ parties are moving to regain control of the Upper House via introduction of some form of optional distribution of preferences so although Palmer and the Greens are now entrenched there is most likely only this term of government in which the window of opportunity is open for the horde of independents to do something useful for the nation and this would be a welcome initiative.

  15. Stephen Tardrew


    Very interesting thanks for the link. Poetic justice hey!

  16. Matt James

    Love the tough guy, economist rock “the tree huggers love to champion their selfless worth, that’s why they stay well away from treasury” garbage that traitor to his own people, refugees gloats.

    NBN: we would have been better off without privatisation

    And that was before the $11BILLION deal has been publicized (not much and pretty sensible pops up in the BS), but wait… its not a buy back of course. That’s the first deal on the lease. Telstra’s a business remember, not some charity for drunks, public servants just don’t get it do they. $98BILLION until 2067. Buy back? Cash up front? forget it.

    But hang on, didn’t the government recently own all of this?

    Mark Gregory. NBN – ageing copper network and structural separation.

    Hockey’s wife? Banker, Mike Baird (commited to US style Big Health Private, hospital sell off)? Banker, Josh Frydenburg or whatever he’s called? Banker.

  17. Bill Morris

    Maybe Clive doesn’t want anything, for himself, a reasonable enough assumption about someone who can already have anything money can buy, well from someone who is not jaundiced by Clive’s success that is. Several have suggested Clive wants power, so the tall poppy syndrome is alive and well in Oz, and the green eyed monster. Maybe Clive would simply like to see a bit of fairness and decency return to Australia, I would too. And Clive is in a position of being able to something about it.

  18. 'FairGo Australia'

    Clive is after more power which will definitely give him more money …. One thing always leads to another … never forget that …

  19. David Somerville

    Clive has a grudge against the Liberal Party that he is pursuing with his usual vociferous energy. Clive is all about Clive and out to get Tony on the end of a piece of string, just like a puppet and not even Peta the incredible will save him. I don’t think Tony’s posterior has any more appeal to Clive than it had to the independents at the last election.

  20. diongiles

    I’m with Bill Morris on this. Respecting other people means assessing them through the their overt words and actions on the assumption that they’re honest, not guessing ulterior motives without any evidence.

  21. Paul Raymond Scahill

    Clive Palmer has already paid the carbon pricing bill, so it is time you came down from your tree.

  22. Heather

    Thanks. Good analysis. Will be watching with interest.

  23. Caz

    I think Clive has a lot of chutzpah, I’m not sure if he can influence others and convince them that
    he wants a better Australia. I don’t think he is a team builder. He will need friends that believe in him.

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