April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Australian entrepreneur Clive Palmer said opposition leader Tony Abbott, who is leading in polls ahead of the Sept. 14 election, should be worried that conservative voters will be wooed to his new political party.
“I can understand his concern because his performance hasn’t been what it could be as opposition leader,” Palmer, who is planning to build a replica of the Titanic, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Sydney today. “He hasn’t provided the leadership necessary to get this economy moving again.”
The owner of mining company Mineralogy Pty is restarting the United Australia Party, the precursor of the main Liberal Party, to contest 150 seats in the federal election. He may divert support from Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition which has led in opinion polls against Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s minority Labor government for more than 18 months.
At least two sitting members of parliament will switch to his party before the election, Palmer told reporters in Sydney earlier today, declining to name them.
“Our current lot of politicians hasn’t done too good,” Palmer said. “Their view is they have to tax more and screw the economy down. My view is you’ve got to expand it more and give people more opportunities.”
Australia’s manufacturing sector has been hurt by the strength of the Aussie dollar, which has averaged about $1 in the past three years, the strongest performance since the early 1980s. General Motors Co.’s Holden unit said this month it will cut about 500 jobs in Australia, citing the local dollar’s strength and currency devaluations in competing markets.
The nation’s unemployment rate climbed to 5.6 percent in March from 5.4 percent the previous month, marking the highest level since November 2009.
“I’m very confident the people of Australia are very savvy and are going to vote for the people who are serious, who have done the work, and can deliver stable, competent and trustworthy government,” Abbott said at an April 26 news conference after Palmer announced he was launching his party.
Palmer, 59, and mining billionaires Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest drew criticism last year from Treasurer Wayne Swan who said they were threatening the nation’s democratic process by using their wealth to seek to shape policy. Palmer last year dropped plans to contest Swan’s seat in the federal election.
Palmer has an agreement with Nanjing-based CSC Jinling Shipyard to build a 21st-century replica of the Titanic. CSC Jinling is also building four 64,000 deadweight tonne bulk carriers for the mining entrepreneur, whose investments also include golf courses, hotels, a soccer team and a horse stud.
The Titanic II, scheduled to sail from England to New York on its maiden voyage by the end of 2016, will likely cost at least $500 million, Greg Johnson, an analyst with Shore Capital Group in London, said last year. The original RMS Titanic, whose popularity was underscored by the 1997 James Cameron movie that won 11 Academy Awards, sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 after colliding with an iceberg. The sinking caused the deaths of 1,502 people.
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