Clive Palmer Gives Media A Spray In Bizarre Comeback Presser
Former One Nation senator Brian Burston has joined Palmer's new United Australia Party.
Clive Palmer's political comeback descended into chaos just minutes into his first press conference, which ended with the sprinklers being turned on.
Palmer attacked journalists, boasted of his wealth and defended his business record against a Labor MP at the press conference.
Palmer, who made billions as a mining magnate and formerly led a bloc of four MPs under his Palmer United Party following the 2013 election before quitting ahead of the 2016 poll, announced his return to politics on Sunday. His party has been rebranded as the United Australia Party, following months of speculation that he would try to re-enter politics.
On Monday, Palmer announced former One Nation senator Brian Burston would join UAP. Just an hour before, Burston officially informed the Senate he had quit One Nation and would sit as an independent, and at a press conference, Burston was accused of lying to the parliament.
"We were still negotiating right to the last minute," Burston claimed, saying he only confirmed his decision at 10.30am, after speaking to the Senate.
But it was Palmer who was at the centre of the storm at the press conference, with repeated questioning about his business interests and what he owed to former employees of his failed company Queensland Nickel. The company went into administration in 2015, and numerous workers claim they are still owed thousands of dollars in unpaid wages.
Labor MP Cathy O'Toole, whose electorate of Herbert contained the QNI facility at Townsville, attended the press conference with journalists and threw several questions of her own at Palmer.
"Why aren't you paying the workers in Herbert district in Townsville the money they are owed?" she asked, claiming to know of workers who were owed substantial sums.
"It is their back pocket. They are not wealthy like you."
It set off a heated back and forth:
Palmer: What we have got to do do is look to the future and get jobs for the country... I sympathise with all the people in North Queensland.O'Toole: Sympathy doesn't pay their bills.Palmer: It is not my responsibility to pay the people's bills.O'Toole: It is your responsibility to pay your workers their entitlements.Palmer: I'm sorry, I wasn't, I didn't sack anybody in North Queensland.O'Toole: They are not seeing it. Some of them don't have a job.Palmer: That is not true. If they haven't got a job after three years, we need to create more incentive to get jobs
Palmer went on to say that he may run for a House of Representatives seat, with the UAP set to run for every House and Senate seat in the country. It follows the disintegration of the former Palmer United, after senators Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus quit the party not long after the 2013 election.
"How can anyone trust a word you said? You ripped money out of your company You let it go under. People in North Queensland wouldn't spit on you if you walked past. Why should they believe you today?" one reporter asked.
"That's not true," Palmer replied.
Palmer's large yellow billboards popping up around the country with the slogan 'Make Australia Great', as well as Palmer's social media presence attacking media and other politicians, have drawn comparisons to Donald Trump's campaign for the American presidency.
At the press conference, Palmer again attacked journalists and media outlets.
"We want to return to our roots when politicians really mattered and could do something for the nation. It was that time when there were reporters that reported the news. There weren't journalists who wrote fiction. So we hope that you recognise that is very important," he said.
The bizarre press conference ended as the Parliament House sprinklers suddenly turned on, with a spigot spraying water right below the podium. Palmer, Burston and journalists fled the Canberra winter air.