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Rich Men: Clive Palmer

Updated on June 18, 2013

Who is Clive Palmer?

A rugged individualist, a boon to Australia, a visionary, greedy, eccentric, larger than life, a little crazy, dangerous political mover and shaker - all these descriptions have been applied to outspoken uber-wealthy mining tycoon, Clive Palmer. Estimated to be the fifth richest man in Australia, Palmer began his professional life as a successful Gold Coast real estate developer, accumulating a fortune along the way, before spreading his tentacles out further afield and acquiring mining interests in the 1980s.

Although he is often described as a 'mining magnate', Palmer has ownership of no mines and extracts no resources. He owns only a nickel and cobalt refinery, Queensland Nickel, which he bought cheaply from BHP Billiton in 2009. However, his umbrella company Minerology has rights to billions of tons of iron ore reserves in Australia's booming Pilbara region in Western Australia and several billion tonnes of thermal coal in Queensland.In 2010 he announced his company had signed the 'biggest export contract ever' with China: a 20 year agreement to export 60 billion tonnes of coal to service that country's energy needs.

Just how much Palmer is worth is unclear - Forbes Magazine puts his fortune at a mere $759 million, while Business Review Weekly reports it is around $5 billion, which is quite a discrepancy.In all likelihood the true figure lies somewhere between. In 2012 Clive Palmer was named by the National Trust as an Australian National Treasure, (an award that honours those who have made an outstanding contribution to Australia): a decision that surprised many and prompted a low level rumble of controversy within the community,

Clive Palmer.
Clive Palmer. | Source

Personal Life

Palmer was born in Victoria in 1954 and his father founded Melbourne radio station, 3AK. In Queensland he studied journalism for a time at University but abandoned his studies to take advantage of the Queensland real estate boom. At 29 he had accumulated several million dollars in his bank account and retired from real estate. After a period of global travel, he returned to take up a position as media manager for the Queensland National Party (he was offered life membership for his services). However more lucrative possibilities beckoned and he left the post to pursue mining interests.

Married for 30 years to his first Susan Maree, who sadly died died from cancer., he remarried his second wife Anna, who also lost a partner to cancer, in 2007 and they have one daughter, Mary Jean. Palmer also has a son, Michael George and a daughter, Emily Susan, from his marriage to Susan Maree.

As a director of the Boston JFK Library Palmer names the former American president among his heroes, despite his Democrat politics, which are largely anathema to Palmer's own right-wing views.

Charity Work

Palmer is the largest benefactor of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, which supports the leadership endeavours of young Australians. He also spends one million dollars a year in Townsville on sports and enterprises and funds a one hundred million dollar trust which looks after the interests of WA aboriginals.

"My philosophy is I'm a normal person like everyone else. You can only eat one meal and sleep in one bed and if you're a smart guy you only have one woman in your life. So I try to have an easy wife gives me 50 bucks a week to live on and if I stick within that budget I'm okay." (Clive Palmer, ABC Interview)

Political Ambition

Palmer has been no shrinking violet when it comes to expressing his political views and indeed more than express them, he has actively attempted to exert political influence through his actions, During the 2012 Queensland elections Palmer engineered and unleashed a minor political maelstrom, claiming that the Greens were secretly funded by the CIA and that both organizations were working in cahoots and planning to destroy the Australian coal industry, though he presented no credible evidence to back his assertions.

It seems he came to his conclusions due to environmental groups Greenpeace International and US Coal Swarm, being partly funded by the Rockefeller Centre. The CIA rejected the claims out of hand, stating succinctly in an email to the public broadcaster that "Simply put, these allegations are false". Similarly, the Greens denied being in any way a "tool of the CIA". Palmer later admitted, the allegations were designed to muddy the waters during the Queensland election and divert attention away from the then opposition candidate, who was being lambasted by the Premier Anna Bligh for alleged corruption practices.

Such episode are indicative of Palmer's loose treatment of the truth and his fearlessness in attempting to manipulate public discourse - critics claim, in order to serve his own interests and that of his political ideology. The billionaire seems unconcerned by media flack from his critics that he is 'buffoon' and "recklessly irresponsible" . Nor did it stop him from announcing in April that he would be running for preselection as a Conservative Coalition candidate in time for the next Australian election. The Labor Party fears he will use his vast wealth to buy his way into parliament.

The Original Titanic
The Original Titanic

Rebuilding the Titanic

In early 2012, with typical attention-getting flamboyance, Palmer announced his intention to rebuild the legendary Titanic. The ship is to be be built by Chinese company, CSC Jinling Shipyard and due for completion in 2016.

Many were surprised by the announcement, yet the project is in keeping with Palmer's character -he thinks big, takes risks and has an 'unsinkable' confidence in his own judgement.

The proposed Chinese Titanic is an ambitious project and will likely either be a raging success or a gigantic lemon - either way, it's a large task to to take on. However, Palmer does not shy away from challenges, even preposterous ones.

Clive Palmer's Political Party

Update: Palmer recently announced the advent of a new political party - the United Australia Party, bankrolled by non other than himself. Wrangles with his old political party, the Liberal/National Coalition, led to a rift, inspiring the billionaire magnate to create a party that would "unite all Australians". However, Palmer himself has declared this new party will be "near identical" to the Liberal party in ideology.

The United Australia Party moniker comes from the 1931 political party founded by disaffected labour minister, Joseph Lyons and was predecessor to the current Liberal Party.

Update: The United Australia party has now been changed to the Palmer United Party.PUP for short. It's the first political party in Australia to be named after an individual.


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