AN UNMITIGATED FARCE unworthy of even a single vote has ended, with news Clive Palmer will contest neither a Queensland Senate seat nor his electorate of Fairfax; too gutless to face his incensed constituents — who will now be denied their opportunity to boot his voluble arse onto the pavement — Palmer leaves Canberra having arguably helped destroy a state government, a Prime Minister, and to help facilitate the return of the ALP to office.
And so it ends, that which should never have started.
The unmitigated farce that was the Palmer United Party — with Clive Palmer, who was going to win 100 lower house seats and become Prime Minister in “a revolution” — came to an end with a whimper rather than a bang today, with the not-unexpected news that not only was Palmer wimping out of facing the wrath of the voters he walked all over in the seat of Fairfax, but that he couldn’t even be bothered trying to take the cheat’s route back to Canberra by trying to secure a Senate berth.
There’s a good reason for that. Palmer would be lucky now not to be eliminated in the early rounds of any Senate count.
This column — right from the outset — was scathing of Clive Palmer and his egomaniacal pretensions to the Prime Ministership; an unsuitable candidate — for anything, if we’re honest about it — Palmer’s alleged mass uprising turned out to be small-scale but politically toxic incursion into three Senate seats, and a single House of Representatives electorate by 53 votes after preferences off the back of just 26% of the primary vote, at the 2013 election.
It was as good as it got for the self-styled billionaire and mining baron.
As far back as April 2013 — more than three years ago — we called out the “popular revolution” Palmer claimed to embody for what it was: an unabashed, arrogant pantomime, shamelessly aimed at personal advancement and the settling of not-so-old scores, with the delusional insistence he would become Prime Minister paling into insignificance beside the very real prospect he would find some way to kill off Campbell Newman in Queensland, Tony Abbott in Canberra, or both.
At root, the sole discernible pretext for Palmer’s political aspirations — aside from megalomania — was the fact that having donated millions of dollars to the Queensland Division of the National Party (and later the LNP), Palmer found the Newman government singularly unwilling to do whatever he wanted: planning approvals, land zoning decisions, favourable tax treatment, the whole box and dice.
With astonishing chutzpah (and notwithstanding the very sensitive antenna post-Bjelke-Petersen Queenslanders retain for anything with so much as a whiff of corrupt behaviour about it, even now), Palmer launched into a savage diatribe against Newman, all but accusing him of corrupt misconduct, accusing then-Treasurer Tim Nicholls of having “cooked the books,” and labelling the LNP a “bunch of crooks.”
There obviously wasn’t a mirror handy that day.
And of course, somewhere along the way, Tony Abbott and the federal Coalition became just as hated in Palmer’s eyes as Newman and the Queensland LNP; a cynic might say it was at the intersection between a massive ego and the need to retain votes, and the fact that offering to sluice huge amounts of cash around as the price for allowing legislation to pass the Senate might help curry empty but populist favour with the “battlers” for whose situation in life he had thitherto exhibited scant regard.
The balance of power in the Senate — which is what his bloc of three votes, in practice, amounted to — was used to no better ends than to cripple the Abbott government.
It is a point of record that I have criticised the 2014 budget as loudly as anyone, so misguided and poorly managed as it was.
But with Labor and the
Communist Party Greens blocking everything in sight, it was Palmer’s votes that tipped the balance: and invariably, it was to vote unpopular measures down to make himself look like a champion of the oppressed. On at least one occasion — the repeal of the mining tax — he allowed the measure to pass, but only after insisting on billions of dollars in spending that ensured that far from helping fix the state of the Commonwealth budget, the abolition of the mining tax actually worsened it.
Palmer stands condemned for a distinct lack of judgement in ensuring the election of imbecilic Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie by throwing large sums of cash into her campaign; Lambie — probably the stupidest individual ever elected to any Australian Parliament — has made Parliament and Australia a laughing stock, with her childish prattle about chasing rich men with big dicks, or her excruciating distinction between “Chinese” and “Communist Chinese,” and who advocated some kind of nuclear strike against the latter contingent.
Lambie, unbelievably, stands a good chance of surviving the imminent double dissolution, and if she does, it will be a permanent indictment on Palmer for enabling the moron to get anywhere near the Senate in the first place.
More recent times have seen Palmer pick — and lose — legal fights with an array if institutions and identities, not least his state-backed business partners in China; for those who always knew what Palmer was like and/or could see straight through the wafting cloud of bullshit he tried to cloak his “people’s party” in, it was a deeply satisfying process to watch as court loss followed court loss, and the 68-zip record of success in lawsuits Palmer used to boast about was obliterated.
I’m reliably told that the only real difference between the Clive Palmer who was a Young Liberals member in Brisbane in the 1970s and the Palmer of just a few years ago is the fact that his business success meant that he was actually able to make good on the threats to sue anyone who pissed him off that were commonly made even as a teenager.
It’s a telling insight.
The idea of a full-scale replica of the Titanic — built in China and escorted into harbour in the USA by a Chinese submarine — was laughable beyond belief, and it goes without saying that there will never be a second sinking of the Titanic because there will never be a Titanic to sink.
But there has been nothing to laugh about as his business empire crumbles, killing off jobs and family livelihoods with it: first his resort at Coolum, in his electorate, and lately the Queensland Nickel refinery in North Queensland, the spectacle of hundreds of jobs being lost is of far more concern than listening to Palmer whinge in the press about his declining business fortunes.
In the end, nobody is going to miss Palmer when he vacates the national political complex on 2 July.
Except, perhaps, Bill Shorten, whose Labor Party is arguably the sole beneficiary of the antics of Palmer and his eponymous party; even though the 2014 budget was a political obscenity of the most unbelievably grotesque proportions, it is impossible to believe that even the misfiring Abbott government could have been hauled to the brink of defeat over it were it not for the tactics employed against it in the Senate by Palmer and his cohorts.
The fact the budget itself was deeply flawed does not automatically make Palmer’s actions right, but if Bill Shorten wins the election on 2 July, Palmer will be able to take a fair share of the credit for it — and this is an indictment on an individual who claimed he was starting his own party to promote the “true” virtues of Australian conservatism.
I feel very sorry for voters in Palmer’s seat of Fairfax; they have paid a heavy price for his purported advocacy on their behalf, and their communities are poorer for his continued presence in them. The Coolum resort was once a major community hub, a driver of economic activity in the region, and a provider of hundreds of jobs. Now it is as good as defunct. It seems an indicative metaphor for the trail of scorched Earth that seems to follow Palmer wherever he goes.
Electors in Fairfax deserve the opportunity to piss all over their rotund parasite of an MP from a great height, and to propel his sizeable arse across the pavement and into the gutter: so ungracious is Palmer, and so utterly self-serving, that he hasn’t even got the decency to face the music and allow them to pass judgement upon him.
Australian politics has seen its share of self-important hero figures — consumed by hallucinatory visions of their own grandeur, and fortified by the sheer gall to suggest people actually like or even love them — who are almost without exception the worst kind of people anyone could find to entrust with the mandate of acting on their behalf.
In this sense, Palmer isn’t the first — and regrettably, he won’t be the last. Even as I write, Lambie is sitting in Tasmania somewhere quietly congratulating herself on what a legend she is in her own mind.
But Palmer leaves public life with no discernible achievements, no track record of making the lives of the ordinary folk he was charged with serving any better, and nothing for which he will be remembered fondly or, indeed, remembered at all.
Nothing, that is, except the abuse of power implicit in seeking elected office to further his own business interests, and to destroy those who refused to do it — improperly, indecently, or even corruptly — on his behalf.
It is a sick and sorry record of “achievement” by a leech whose chief conviction seems to have been that a little money entitled him to whatever he wanted, and that the refusal of others to capitulate to his demands merely legitimised his abuse of that power in seeking to destroy them personally, politically, and with malice.
Vale, Clive Palmer — Prime Minister of nothing.