Mining Magnate Palmer in Contention to Be Australia Lawmaker

Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer led the vote count for the lower-house district of Fairfax in his native Queensland state, putting him on course to win a seat in the federal parliament after the Sept. 7 election.

Palmer was ahead with 53 percent of the vote on a two party-preferred basis, against the Liberal National Party’s candidate Ted O’Brien on 47 percent, according to the Australian Electoral Commission website. His Palmer United Party may secure as many as two places in the 76-seat Senate, with results for the upper house -- where he fielded 18 candidates -- also still pending.

Palmer, 59, 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. While that prize was claimed by Tony Abbott, who has so far seen his Liberal-National coalition leading in 88 of the 150 lower-house districts, three places in parliament may give Palmer some influence, according to Paul Strangio, a senior lecturer in politics at Monash University in Melbourne.

“Palmer’s party made up a lot of ground very quickly” after being formed this year, Strangio said. “He looks to have picked up disaffected Labor voters who weren’t prepared to move to the coalition. His heavy advertising campaign seems to have worked.”

Even so, “it’s still too early to be sure he’s won any seats, and the surge in popularity may not be sustainable,” Strangio said.

Titanic II

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, Palmer is building a full-scale replica of the Titanic. His election policies included abolishing the carbon price mechanism and mining profits tax instigated by the outgoing Labor government and creating incentives to encourage more onshore processing of the nation’s resources.

“Our policy is to repeal the carbon tax and to refund the money from the day it was introduced,” Palmer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. today. “The coalition’s policy as I understand it is to repeal the tax but not refund the money raised by it,” he said. “We’ll support the repeal of the mining tax because that costs us more money to administer than it raises.”

In this election, he fielded candidates in every lower-house district, winning 5.6 percent of first-preference votes. The Greens party, which holds the balance of power in the Senate and was an ally of the former Labor government, secured 8.4 percent.

Dinosaur Park

Along with mining magnates Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest, Palmer drew criticism last year from then-Treasurer Wayne Swan who said they were threatening the nation’s democratic process by using their wealth to seek to shape policy. Palmer, a former member of the Liberal National Party in Queensland, 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. The shipbuilder is also making four 64,000 deadweight tonne bulk carriers for Palmer, whose investments have included golf courses, hotels, a soccer team and a horse stud.

He has also announced plans to build the Palmer Coolum Resort: Dinosaur Park, which will feature more than 150 mechanical dinosaurs at his Queensland golf resort. Last year he claimed Greenpeace was being funded by the Central Intelligence Agency to attempt to destroy Australia’s coal-mining industry.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.