BILLIONAIRE Clive Palmer (pictured) is not one to walk away from a fight. But did he swing a little too hard when he linked the CIA to Australian anti-mining groups?
Queensland business heavyweight Clive Palmer may have just come within an uppercut of having a ‘Mike Tyson moment’.
The Mineralogy founding director cites litigation as his hobby and boasts an unbeaten courtroom record in the vicinity of 68-0 (according to his own assessment).
World heavyweight boxing champion ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was also unbeaten (37-0) when he strolled into the ring in Tokyo during 1990 to take on journeyman battler James ‘Buster’ Douglas.
Prior to the bout, Tyson had trash-talked his views on success and wealth, gloated about his world domination and regarded Douglas as somewhat of a nuisance that needed to be swatted away.
History shows the underdog stunned Tyson and decked him in the 10th round to score an upset win, which shocked most onlookers and changed the sport forever.
Clive ‘The Living Treasure’ Palmer last month may have just copped a surprise punch of his own. It was nothing anywhere near a knockout blow, but it may just have stung a little more than normal.
Environmental campaigner and former Greens political candidate Drew Hutton has indicated he could sue Queensland’s wealthiest man over comments he made in the media alleging links between America’s Central Intelligence Agency and anti-mining groups in Australia.
Hutton claims to have been defamed and has demanded an apology from Palmer. It is understood legal letters have been exchanged.
“This is a man with an immense amount of wealth and immense influence and he is carrying on in this way,” Hutton told ABC radio.
“I am not a litigator – I don’t like taking people to court and I believe in free speech.
“But I also believe in being a decent human being and not tarnishing them by making up all sorts of wild accusations,” he says.
Palmer has since refrained from repeating his accusations but says he does not regret making them.
Time will tell whether Hutton gets an apology or lands anything near a Douglaslike blow on Palmer – if, of course, he can raise the financial resources to take on the billionaire.
But what the incident confirms yet again is the enormous profile Palmer has built across the national media.
While the extent of his influence and the benefit of some outcomes could be debated, Palmer has been giving a master class on how to work the media in recent months.
When it comes to making news, the heavy hitter of business and mining is a Golden Gloves champion.
Increasingly these days, whenever Palmer gets involved in anything it’s a case of “let’s get ready to rumble”.
Take State election night for instance. Palmer, an LNP member and supporter, was on one channel’s commentary team and gave several interviewers his version of a victory speech more than an hour before then Premier-elect Campbell Newman took the stage.
Palmer is without doubt a one-man news machine who seems to thrive on pitched battles on multiple fronts. Just like a champion boxer he always has one more punch to throw and a final comment to prove – irrespective of the circumstances – that he was right all along.
Consider some of these classic Palmer dust-ups in recent times:
The big hit: The Gillard government gets the first part of its Mining and Resource Rent Tax through Federal Parliament and introduces the new carbon tax from July 1. Treasurer Wayne Swan accuses Palmer and other rich mining bosses of using their wealth to distort public debate on the issues.
Palmer’s return blow: He claims the legislation is unconstitutional and prepares a High Court challenge.
“They think I am a threat to democracy. Well I think I am epitomising what democracy is all about," he says.
The big hit: After buying the Coolum golf resort for a reported $28 million, Palmer accuses Hyatt Hotels Corporation of poor management of the facility and alleges $60 million had been ‘siphoned’ from the hotel and spa over the past 20 years.
Palmer’s return blow: He places two of his companies into voluntary administration in a tactic to remove Hyatt as the hotel operator as funds dry up. Hyatt successfully wins a temporary injunction to return its manager to the front desk, but Palmer prevails with an out-of-court settlement that sends Hyatt packing.
“The agreement [with Hyatt at Coolum] has been based on increasing turnover rather than making a profit – a flawed business model which was delivering substandard results for stakeholders," he says.
The big hit: QR National announces plans to build a 500km rail line along a similar route proposed by Palmer to ship the rich coal reserves from his Waratah Coal-China First Project in central Queensland – a project expected to create 6000 jobs and generate $4.6 billion annually once operational.
Palmer’s return blow: He launches an $8 billion lawsuit against QR National – which is one-third owned by the State Government – citing political interference, breach of confidentiality and misleading conduct.
“This is an outrage ... a bid to score some political mileage in the government’s bid for re-election," he says.
The big hit: Palmer’s Gold Coast United has its license to play in football’s A-League revoked with Football Federation Australia (FFA) administrators calling the club a “spectacular failure” and accusing its owner of breaches of the league’s participation agreement.
Palmer’s return blow: He announces the launch of his own football organisation called Football Australia, an independent body he says will “oversee football at a grassroots and senior level and ensure the game is operated with transparency and fairness”.
“We want to ensure there is fairness in the game for all stakeholders and end the dictatorship that the game has endured under the FFA,” he says.
The big hit: After three earlier false starts, investors again shy away from a $3.4 billion initial public offering (IPO) in Palmer’s iron ore and coal company Resourcehouse.
Palmer’s return blow: He disputes there had been three earlier attempts to launch a Resourcehouse IPO and brushes off the latest setback, saying he had obtained $1.2 billion in Chinese funding for proposed coal ventures in Queensland and Western Australia.
“We didn’t need the IPO anyway," he says.
The big hit: He is rushed to hospital suffering from a suspected heart attack during a Gold Coast United game against arch rivals Brisbane Roar at Skilled Stadium.
Palmer’s return blow: It was not a heart attack, just a severe bout of indigestion after “eating my pies too fast”.
“I probably do live a poor lifestyle. I’ll be taking steps to improve that and I think you’ll see a new person next year," he says.
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