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Palmer Strengthens Australia Senate Hand Through Voting Bloc

Palmer United Party Founder Clive Palmer
Clive Palmer, founder of the Palmer United Party, may yet secure a seat himself in the House of Representatives. Photographer: Stefan Postles/Getty Images

Clive Palmer, the Australian mining magnate whose party is on course to win three Senate seats in the Sept. 7 election, formed an alliance with another new member of the upper house and said Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government will have to negotiate with the bloc to pass laws.

The Palmer United Party will vote with the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, represented by Ricky Muir, when the new Senate convenes from July 1, Palmer said in Sydney today.

Abbott’s leader in the upper house “will have to negotiate with our team or he won’t be negotiating at all,” Palmer told reporters. Otherwise it will be a “very cold winter,” he said, adding it was important to avoid legislative gridlock.

With the final outcome of the Senate yet to be declared, preliminary results indicate Abbott will be required to gain the support of at least six Senators outside his coalition 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.

The election saw 40 of the 76-member Senate up for grabs. Until July 1 the balance of power is held by the Greens. Abbott is yet to announce when parliament will sit for the first time under the new government.

The Liberal-National coalition, which won a majority in the lower house, is set to hold 33 of the 76 seats in the new Senate, according to preliminary results from the Australian Electoral Commission. Labor is on course for 26 spots, the Greens nine and smaller, mainly center-right parties -- including Palmer’s -- eight.

Muir won a Victoria Senate seat after his Motoring Enthusiast Party gained 0.5 percent of the primary vote in the state.

Palmer, 59, may yet secure a seat himself in the House of Representatives. The AEC on Oct. 1 ordered a full recount of more than 89,000 votes cast in the Queensland lower-house district of Fairfax, after initial counting showed he won by just seven votes.

Another recount will occur for Western Australia’s Senate results, involving about 1.25 million votes, the AEC said today. It didn’t say when the recount will be concluded.

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