Mining magnate Clive Palmer will become an Australian lawmaker, adding to three Senate seats his Palmer United Party may claim in the wake of the Sept. 7 election.
Palmer, 59, won the lower house district of Fairfax in Queensland state by a final margin of 53 votes, the Australian Electoral Commission said in an e-mailed statement today. The initial count showed he won by just seven votes, triggering the automatic recount of more than 89,000 ballots.
While Palmer, who owns a nickel refinery and plans an $8 billion gas project, said during the campaign that he was seeking to become prime minister of the world’s 12th-largest economy, the election results will give him political clout. Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition will need to bargain with Palmer’s party to pass laws in the upper house when the new Senate convenes from July 1.
“Palmer’s politics don’t seem a world away from the coalition’s and Abbott will be heartened that Palmer is obviously used to brokering deals through his experiences in the business world,” said Haydon Manning, a politics professor at Flinders University in Adelaide. “While he’ll have no real power in the lower house, winning his seat and being on the ground in Canberra will make it easier for him to direct his troops in the upper house.”
Should the current Senate, in which the Greens and Labor can band together to block legislation, oppose the government’s bills, Abbott will require the support of at least six Senators in the new chamber to make good on his election promises. They include repealing the previous Labor government’s carbon price mechanism and mining tax, and introducing a maternity-leave plan that will cost A$5.5 billion ($5.2 billion) a year.
Palmer, the owner of mining company Mineralogy Pty Ltd. who made his fortune in real estate and by investing in mining tenements that later proved lucrative, is building a full-scale replica of the Titanic in China. His election policies included abolishing the carbon price mechanism and mining tax instigated and creating incentives for more onshore processing of the nation’s resources.
Earlier this month, Palmer formed an alliance with Ricky Muir of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party to create a voting bloc in the Senate.
The final make-up of the upper house is unclear, with the AEC recounting votes in Western Australia, a state hosting one of the Palmer United Party’s three would-be Senators. The recount has been complicated by the AEC saying today that 1,375 votes verified during the initial count couldn’t be located.
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