04/09/2014 - 05:05

PUP moulded in Palmer’s image

04/09/2014 - 05:05


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Australian politics has never seen anything like the Palmer United Party, a strange concoction of a family company mixed with a fan club.

PUP moulded in Palmer’s image

It's clear the Palmer United Party's electoral success rests on the unorthodox style and personality of its founder and owner, Clive Palmer, and the many millions he spent campaigning. Whether that money was his is now a matter of legal challenge, with his Chinese partners, Citic Pacific, claiming his company, Mineralogy, transferred $12 million from a joint account to which he was not entitled.

When it comes to personality, Palmer's a complex mixture of blowhard, bully, and bogan, all of which are more likely to be found in a bar around closing time.

Another unique feature of Australia's now year-long Palmer experience is that the hurriedly cobbled together PUP is a unique mixture of a family company and fan club.

Australian politics has never seen anything like it.

The parties of those other Queensland mavericks –Pauline Hanson and Bob Kattler – don't even come close.

To concisely describe PUP requires resorting to Latin terminology, sui generis, meaning 'of its own kind' or 'unique in its characteristics'.

PUP is unmistakeably unique, so much so that the leaderships of all four entrenched parties – Labor, Liberal, National and Greens – deliberately steer well clear of public imbroglios with Palmer.

Politicians sense that if they dared antagonise the PUP leader he's likely to give them a public tongue lashing, as he did on the ABC's Q&A program when calling the Chinese "mongrels".

The question worth posing, therefore, is to whom, and why, does all the bombast, bullying, and boganism appeal?

Palmer's approach to politics seems to attract Australia's many millions of disenfranchised voters who, among other things, see no difference between the two majors – Liberal and Labor.

It's difficult not to sympathise a little with that view.

Can anyone tell me the difference between, say, the following four university-trained career-oriented politicians – Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull, Geoff Gallop, and Colin Barnett?

Flick a coin and they could be in either major party.

And for decades such careerists have manned our parliaments.

Even though Palmer once helped bankroll Queensland's non-Labor establishment, when that relationship soured he left the fold – a clear case of his 'it's my way or the highway' approach.

He wasn't going to play second fiddle to politicians when he was in a hurry to create a jumbo-sized mining and financial empire.

So he turned to his still small billion or so dollar empire to recruit PUP's candidates, since they'd more likely remain loyal.

Before the 2013 federal election, Palmer told Channel Nine's, The Today Show, that: "Three members of our staff are standing for parliament, so other colleagues are being allowed to join them and support them".

That utterance was checked by a media sleuth, who logged onto PUP's website to find: "12 individuals who either currently work for or with Mr Palmer or have previously worked with him".

New Western Australian Senator Dio Wang is one of them.

Palmer's man in Queensland's seat of Dawson, Ian Ferguson, was his one-time boss and is now managing director of Palmer's part-owned Queensland Nickel.

In Queensland's Sunshine Coast seat of Fisher it was Bill Schoch of Palmer's Mineralogy Group.

And so on to family members.

In Queensland's seat of Forde it was his nephew, Blair Brewster, CEO of the Palmer-owned Gladstone Pacific Nickel.

And there was Clive Mensink, a nephew who heads Palmer companiesMineralogy, Queensland Nickel and Cosmo Developments, for the seat of Dickson.

PUP's membership was clearly prepared to tolerate this jobs for employees and relatives for a while, but surely not forever?

This prominence of employees and relatives as candidates was bound to rankle some, and so it has proved, with the emergence of signs that the wheels are falling off the Palmer road show.

Queensland's parliamentary PUP leader, Alex Douglas, certainly could stand it no more and has resigned to become an independent.

"The executive pre-selections rapidly progressed, with not only his (Mr Palmer's) brother-in-law being preselected, his PUP senator's (Glenn Lazarus) spouse, his electoral officer, his Titanic director, his two nephews," Dr Douglas said.

"It goes on ... his in-house solicitor, one of his staffer's husbands.

"This is all when PUP had genuine members willing to nominate for these Queensland seats.''

Dr Douglas added that he was amazed that Mr Palmer's brother-in-law would run for Queensland's state seat of Broadwater.

"I was told it's his wife's brother,'' Dr Douglas said.

"I was stunned.

"I'd met him on occasions as he's the Palmer party's photographer, a nice polite fellow.

"He's never spoken to me about a desire to enter politics."

For this Mr Palmer reacted somewhat predictably by calling Dr Douglas a "two-faced bastard''.


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