Clive Palmer, billionaire and now MP for the Queensland seat of Fairfax, fronted the National Press Club yesterday for the second time this year. He began with a rousing speech appealing to the press, but they were not going to let his calls for higher wages for journalists sway their queries.
The nation’s top business and economics reporters focused on Palmer’s investments and his tax obligations, which provide fertile ground for inquiry. Here are some of the highlights from Palmer’s answers.
Palmer begins with a swipe at past politics:
“Never before have the rights of our citizens been more important. Never before has our press had a more important role to play, to report the critical issues of our time and to stimulate our nation at a time following an election which was devoid of ideas from national leaders that should know better, and should offer an agenda for the country for the future.”
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Palmer makes a play for the hearts and minds of the nation’s press, says communism could have been averted:
“If only this bourgeoisie capitalist publisher and editor had treated him more fairly, and listened to his increase for wages, if only Marx had remained a foreign correspondent, the world might be a different place and the 20th century wouldn’t have so much suffering. I just want to say today that I hope Rupert Murdoch and all publishers will think more about talented dedicated journalists when they make their appeals for a proper working wage to support their families, that all publishers be more appreciative of the contribution they make.”
Palmer crows about his election success:
“In 2013, about eight weeks before the federal election, the Palmer United Party was registered by the Australian Electoral Commission. Its aim at that time was to stand 150 candidates to contest all seats in the House of Representatives, and to stand Senate teams in all States and Territories of the Commonwealth. All members of the press in all States of the Commonwealth said it couldn’t be done. What’s more, the Palmer United Party wouldn’t win any seats in the Federal Parliament. They were wrong, and that’s the reality of it.”
Palmer reveals his philosophy:
“Australians have the right to be right and they have the right to be wrong and that’s what we call democracy in this country.”
Palmer carefully sidesteps the fact the Greens often poll between 8-11% at state and federal elections:
“The Palmer United Party outpolled the National Party, who only received 4% of the vote, yet it has the deputy Prime Minister.”
Palmer offers his views on Australian democracy:
“The entrenchment of the two-party system in this country not only threatens democracy, it destroys the creativity of the nation. It robs from all of us the benefit of each other’s ideas and wisdom and innovation.”
Palmer challenges mainstream journalism to be relevant in the age of the internet:
“We need to separate the role of journalism from the internet, we have to meet the challenge of the new age and a new challenge for journalism in this country.”
Palmer responds to a question from The Australian’s David Crowe, who pointed out that the Coolum Resort which Palmer owns has gone from 650 workers to 150 since early 2012:
“No, it’s incorrect.”
Crowe asks Palmer whether he will declare an interest in his businesses now that he is an MP:
“I’ll declare my interests, what I own as an investor, but I’m not in business, David, I don’t work for any company. I’m a free citizen. I’m a member of the House of Representatives.”
Palmer responds to Lenore Taylor from Guardian Australia on why Queensland Nickel, his company, is not paying $6 billion owed to the Australian Taxation Office to comply with the carbon pricing scheme:
“We’ve got a challenge before the courts and the management of Queensland Nickel have decided until that challenge is made they won’t be paying the tax, and they can’t be compelled to.”
Palmer offers his supporters hope for the future:
“I mean, it’s very possible, based on our polling, that we can win the balance of power in Tasmania, and also in Victoria. So that’s what we’re looking at.”