Well, it’s happened.
The Australian Electoral Commission has confirmed that Clive Frederick Palmer has won the Queensland seat of Fairfax by 36 votes.
Palmer, the mining millionaire (not billionaire – according to Forbes magazine), is perhaps most famous in the minds of the Australian public for his penchant for dinosaurs and an ambitious (albeit well underway) plan to build a replica of the Titanic.
I have watched Clive’s increasingly bizarre foray into Australian politics with fascination. The Palmer United Party’s campaign did not disappoint, with countless double thumbs ups, yellow ties, hilariously unintelligible press conferences and threats of legal action against anyone who flitted across Clive’s mind (including Rupert Murdoch and the AEC). Not to mention songs about pies:
The question I continue to wonder is why?
Why would a man with countless millions of dollars and an already hefty amount of clout in Australian politics (remember that anti-mining tax campaign?) deign to run for a single seat in the House of Representatives?
Despite all appearances, Clive is not an idiot. He studied Law at the University of Queensland (before dropping out) and served as the National Party’s campaign director during the 1983 state election and as media spokesman during its 1986 election campaign. Both were successful. He was also involved in the ‘Joh for Canberra’ campaign to get former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Peterson elected as Prime Minister.
With this intimate knowledge of both politics and the media, surely Clive knows that he can have far more impact on the political debate in this country from outside Parliament.
For a similar example, let’s take a look at another colourful, divisive and occasionally incoherent conservative in the Australian media and political landscape – Andrew Bolt. Bolt originally sought a career within politics, but was unsuccessful in his application to work for Jeff Kennett in the 1980s. Nobody could now dispute the fact that Bolt is incredibly powerful, with a column in the Herald Sun (Australia’s highest selling newspaper), a television show on Channel Ten and multiple fake Twitter accounts (the surest sign that you’re a big deal). I would argue that this makes him far more influential than any state or federal backbencher. It’s unlikely that he would trade places, that’s for sure.
There’s no doubt that Palmer could have his pick of media commentary jobs if he wanted one. He certainly would not be required to make the same pesky declarations regarding conflicts of interest as he will have to as an MP. Also, the prospect of him battling it out on Insiders as a belated replacement for Bolt is strangely appealing.
I suppose that it is not entirely out of the question that Clive may harbour real desires to better Australian society. Or, far more likely, he may believe that the best position from which to lobby his own personal and business interests is from within Parliament.
Whether or not Clive will actually show up and take his place with the cross-benchers remains to be seen. I can’t wait to see what he says with the benefit of Parliamentary Privilege.
But first, an AEC recount. Bring it on.