A WOEFUL RECORD of attendance at Parliament by mining figure Clive Palmer ought to provoke outrage in his electorate of Fairfax, with the self-professed billionaire missing a third of all sitting days since his election; the embarrassing truth raises questions over his commitment to his constituents, and it raises questions over his compliance with Standing Orders. Either way, it may be best for all concerned were Palmer to simply move on.
I have a question this morning, and the only readers who will be able to answer it definitively are those working in the federal parliamentary sphere and with access to the current Standing Orders (for the uninitiated, the rules governing the operation of the Houses of Parliament): that tome uncirculated beyond the seat of governance, and whose vagaries are both unknown to — and contain oddities unknown to the general public — but which must be observed by members of Parliament at all times.
Quite simply, at what point does repeated non-attendance at Parliament by a member of the House of Representatives constitute grounds for the seat of a member to be declared vacant? Remembering the sensitivities in answering this question, I remind any parliamentary staffer or employee that they are able to post comments on this forum using a pseudonym, and that the confidentiality of the email address they provide will be rigorously respected.
Not that it comes as any kind of surprise, Melbourne’s Herald Sun reports today that since his election last year, rogue mining baron Clive Palmer has missed a third of all sitting days in Parliament and that, further, of the parliamentary committees Palmer nominally sits on, he has failed to attend any of the 10 meetings of these to date.
If I were a voter in Palmer’s Sunshine Coast electorate of Fairfax, I would feel like I had been sold a pup: and I mean that in deadly earnest, with no pun intended.
Since his nomination to stand last year, and many times since, Palmer has described himself as a “retired businessman” and, as the Hun notes, a “100% politician,” but there is a legitimate need to question the commitment of any backbench MP who simply fails to show up a third of the time.
The Hun notes that aside from Trade minister Andrew Robb (whose role mandates a heavy travel schedule abroad) and an unnamed backbencher on extended sick leave, Palmer has the worst parliamentary attendance record in the House of Representatives, and given Palmer is not sick (to public knowledge) nor encumbered with a role that legitimises traipsing all over the place on official business, there is really no excuse for him to be off doing his own thing when he ought to be in Canberra.
Whilst the Palmer United Party boasts four MPs — Palmer himself and three Senators — it still falls short of official party status, and whilst it might not suit Palmer’s penchant for wild predictions of being a Prime Minister-in-waiting and similarly ridiculous pronouncements, it debases even further any justification for simply failing to show up to his job.
In other words — and Palmer would loathe being told this — perhaps he shouldn’t get too big for his britches.
This column has been a consistent critic of Clive Palmer, his silly party, its get-square mentality where Queensland’s LNP is concerned and its wild, brainless and unthinking populist stunts, and has pointed out that as much as Palmer tries to position himself as a champion of the underprivileged, almost all of his positions on legislation can be connected with the overriding objective of causing as much trouble for — and electoral damage to — the Coalition as possible.
As I have disclosed before, a couple of years ago I made an approach to one of Palmer’s companies seeking a commercial partnership in relation to a project I was working on in my business. Yet the “discussions” (if you could call them that) went nowhere whatsoever, with the sum total of my interaction with the Palmer empire being confined to an unpleasant and highly abusive outburst from one of his staff.
I mention that again to avoid any charge of being compromised. Moreover, it is completely and utterly consistent with the kind of conduct we have witnessed from Palmer and his minions over Campbell Newman, the Coalition generally, the Chinese, and God only knows who else.
The Hun notes that some of the time Palmer has missed from Parliament was spent campaigning on the Sunshine Coast for next year’s Queensland state election — for which he may not even have a registered party, so low is the membership of the Palmer United Party in that state — and in Newcastle for last weekend’s state by-elections, at which Palmer candidates recorded humiliatingly poor results, and which, given these were state level by-elections in NSW, would appear to have absolutely nothing to do with his role as a federal backbench MP (or his home turf in Queensland, for that matter) whatsoever.
If, as Palmer claims, his “best work” is done “leveraging” the votes of his Senators rather than “working as a backbencher,” then it is clear that in terms of his obligations to his constituents, Palmer’s priorities are well out of line.
Has he — as he claims — been dealing with the Prime Minister and government ministers? Of course he has. The numbers in the Senate dictate this as a matter of course. The stated objectives of the Palmer United Party to cause as much obstruction and difficulty for the Abbott government as possible also make such activities a given.
But if Palmer believes that having “that power and influence” means he can do more than “having (his) vote in Parliament sitting down,” then I would question what the point of him remaining in Parliament as the member for Fairfax is at all.
As the puppeteer for three stuffed shirts in the Senate, he could more than amply pull their strings without drawing a taxpayer-funded salary of his own, and without any need to occupy a sinecure in the lower House.
The good burghers of the electorate of Fairfax deserve a full-time member of Parliament, not some flit-about with ideas of being better than everyone else in Canberra, and to whom established protocols and requirements are deemed not to apply, and who tours around the place to serve his own agenda rather than theirs.
In the end, perhaps Palmer should rethink his seat in Parliament. He would not be missed and, let’s be frank, it wouldn’t change all that much.
And the long-suffering residents of Fairfax could use the resulting by-election to endorse someone who would represent them — and not himself — as the position demands.