Titanic Entrepreneur Palmer to Run for Australian Parliament

Clive Palmer, the Australian entrepreneur planning to build a replica of the Titanic, will set up a new political party and run for parliament, pledging to boost employment as a strong currency curbs the economy.

The owner of mining company Mineralogy Pty is restarting the United Australia Party, the precursor of the main conservative Liberal Party, to contest 150 seats in the federal election in September, he said today at a news conference broadcast on Sky TV. Palmer said he’ll run in the Liberal-held seat of Fairfax in the Sunshine Coast of Queensland state.

“If we look back on Australian political history, hundreds of minor parties have emerged, and only a handful have actually won parliamentary representation,” Zareh Ghazarian, a politics lecturer at Monash University in Melbourne, said by phone. “His timing is a bit off, and history is against him.”

Palmer, 59, and mining billionaires Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest drew criticism last year from Treasurer Wayne Swan for 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.

“I can offer better service to the community than anyone else,” Palmer said. “I have no personal interest. I’ve made enough money in my life. I’m not seeking any enrichment or wealth for myself, I’m seeking it for Australian people.”

‘Serious People’

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose Labor party is trailing Tony Abbott’s Liberal-National coalition in polls ahead of Sept. 14 elections, is trying to woo voters with pledges to boost spending on education and disability payments.

“As far as Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott go, there really is no difference,” Palmer said today. “They are all controlled by the same lobbyist consultancies.”

Australia’s dollar 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 today at a separate news conference broadcast on Sky TV.

Palmer, who owns a nickel refinery and plans an $8 billion gas project, said he wants to become prime minister.

“There’s no chance of that happening,” Ghazarian of Monash University said today.

Titanic Plans

Robert Menzies resigned after 28 months as prime minister in 1941, having lost the support of his United Australia Party. He went on to form the Liberal party from the remnants of the UAP and spent 16 years as prime minister.

The original UAP was formed in 1931, gaining an absolute majority in elections that year under Joseph Lyons, according to Oxford University Press’s Oxford Index website.

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.