Clive Palmer: The eccentric billionaire aiming at a political comeback


He’s the “national treasure” with a flair for flamboyance and now, Clive Palmer is attempting a comeback into federal politics.

Clive Palmer is the Queensland mining magnate behind Mineralogy and Queensland Nickel.

He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2013 but his tenure was marred by party defections and accusations he wasn’t present enough for federal parliament.

Now, the controversial billionaire is making another attempt at politics, fielding candidates in a slew of upper and lower house seats across the country.

Who is Clive Palmer?

Palmer Resort in Coolum on the Sunshine Coast
Clive Palmer at the Palmer Resort in Coolum on the Sunshine Coast

Mr Palmer made his fortune in mining - he owns Mineralogy, which is focused on iron ore in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

He is also behind Queensland Nickel, which collapsed in 2016 owing about $300 million to creditors. The federal government ended up covering entitlements for 800 workers left jobless as a result.

According to Forbes, Mr Palmer's wealth is estimated at $1.8 billion in 2019, propped up by Chinese company Citic paying $200 million in royalties to Mineralogy.

Beyond business, the colourful figure was once a real estate agent, is an avid poet and spent time in China as a child. 

He was once controversially proclaimed a "national living treasure" amid a dispute within the National Trust about the awarding of the honour to him.

He also owns a dinosaur theme park on the Sunshine Coast, dubbed "Palmersaurus", featuring more than 100 replica dinosaurs.

And not to be outdone, still plans on building a replica of the Titanic, reportedly in a shipyard in China. 

He was also once a member of the Liberal National Party until he had a falling out around 2012.

Shortly after, he announced he would form his own party, the Palmer United Party, and contest the 2013 federal election.

Palmer in Parliament

Clive Palmer, falls asleep during House of Representatives Question Time
Clive Palmer, falls asleep during House of Representatives Question Time in 2014.

Mr Palmer’s bid, through a paid election advertising blitz, was successful, and he was elected as the member for the Queensland seat of Fairfax by a slim 53 votes.

But the bigger impact was gaining the balance of power in the Senate with three senators: Jacqui Lambie in Tasmania, Glenn Lazarus in Queensland, and Dio Wang in Western Australia.

Fractures eventually emerged in the party and Mr Lazarus and Ms Lambie both defected.

Mr Palmer was also accused of a lack of attendance during parliamentary sittings - he reportedly only turned up to just 54 per cent of sitting days - and he was photographed sleeping during Question Time.

With the Palmer United Party’s power diminished, Mr Palmer de-registered the party in May 2017.

He relaunched it a year later as the United Australia Party.

This Time Around

Clive Palmer

Mr Palmer’s new party has been saturating Australians’ TVs and mailboxes, as well as billboards and radios, in a bid to win their vote at the 18 May federal election.

It’s estimated he’s spent more than $33 million since late last year.

He is now running for the Senate, along with a slew of United Australia Party candidates in both the lower and upper house.

Mr Palmer reportedly has had a huge boost to his chances of being elected to the Senate amid speculation the Liberal Party and United Australia Party had secured a preference swap deal.

It could mean the Liberals placing United Australia second or above Labor on how-to-vote cards.

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