There's something Al Gore should understand before sharing a stage with Clive Palmer. First and foremost, Palmer is a Liberal spurned. Anything else – boredom, mischief, self-interest, public interest, narcissism, whatever – is a purely secondary consideration.
That puts Tony Abbott in a particularly difficult position. When a key player in the Senate balance of power is primarily interested in embarrassing the government and making life as unpleasant as possible for the Prime Minister, "policy" counts for nought.
It's a thought former US vice-president Gore might have done with before accepting any role in the Palmer parliamentary circus. I suppose it's possible that he did, given Abbott's stance on matters climatic, but nobody's credibility is enhanced by a dance with Clive.
Palmer has shown a talent for the big gesture and "feeding the chooks". Nothing like a Parliament House stunt with Al Gore on the eve of a well-publicised meeting with the Prime Minister – a meeting where Abbott is on a hiding to nothing.
For more than half his life, Clive Palmer lavished time and a fortune on the Coalition parties. It seems his close association with Joh Bjelke-Petersen's Queensland National Party did him no harm back in his real estate days, but it's an extraordinary thing when the party's biggest donor suddenly spends an even greater fortune to thwart the government.
I had a relatively early initiation into Palmer-speak back in 1999 when NSW Premier Bob Carr announced a company called Austeel would build a $2.5 billion steelworks in Newcastle. A credulous press duly reported the event as fact – NSW would provide the land, Clive Palmer his magnetite iron ore and everything else would be magically built by export finance deals.
It only took a couple of phone calls to raise more than a little doubt about the viability of the scheme. The subsequent interview with Palmer for the Business Sunday program proved almost unusable – under repeated questioning about who, if anyone, was actually putting up money, Palmer did what Palmer does under attack: he doesn't make sense.
It was no surprise that the project subsequently failed to proceed. Palmer tried to blame the NSW government for that and sued, as he does on a monotonously regular basis.
Fortunately for Palmer, China's boom subsequently pushed iron ore demand so far through the roof that his magnetite deposit proved to be worth something and Clive started collecting serious money. (In 1999, the best ore, Pilbara haematite, was selling for less than $US12 a tonne. It wouldn't pay to dig up WA magnetite.)
There was a 15-year gap then between Palmer interviews for me when I had the chance to question him at an Institute of Chartered Accountants Australia lunch in Brisbane recently. The format was that Clive Palmer MP would speak for 30 minutes and then be interviewed and take questions from the floor.
As various other Palmer United Party performances have shown, in PUP mode, Palmer is unashamedly populist. Australia has no need to increase taxes, indeed they should be cut, while at the same time there should be more money for pensioners, free health and education and anything else that sounds good.
The PUP show doesn't add up, but the billions are thrown around in such a manner that simple souls might be taken in. Heck, it worked with the NSW government back in 1999 for a while.
As PUP won't ever be in government, short of some frightening Argentina-like future for this country, Palmer can promise and say whatever he likes.
What observation and experience had taught me is that there is no point trying to attack Palmer in an interview, to nail down his big numbers. All that can be done is to feed plenty of rope and watch the game.
The ICAA performance did reveal a couple of interesting ideas. Palmer claimed Queensland police had tried to assassinate Deputy Premier Bill Gunn three times back in the 1980s and suggested that businesses should pay some of the GST rather than consumers.
When the reality of our demographic challenge and costs were put to him after he had proposed tax cuts and increased spending, Clive said one solution would be for businesses to only receive a deduction for 95 per cent of the GST they paid.
The line was that only consumers pay GST – businesses don't. Limiting the deduction would mean businesses would also contribute.
No, it doesn't quite work that way, but it could sound fine to a gullible consumer's ear which is all that matters.
As PUP won't ever be in government, short of some frightening Argentina-like future for this country, Palmer can promise and say whatever he likes without having the problem of actually doing it.
Combined with the electorate's understandable dissatisfaction with both major parties, that can win enough votes to deliver the balance of power on occasion, depending on how the other minority parties are swaying. It's a power that Palmer wants repeated in the Queensland parliament after the next election.
It's mentioning Tony Abbott and, more so, Campbell Newman, that seems to light a spark in Palmer. In the Brisbane interview, there was no definable statement, but, in my opinion, there was a flash of something like hatred for those two men – the hatred of a Liberal spurned.
So on a reasonable policy issue such as reinstating the CPI indexation of fuel excise, when Labor is repaying the favour of the previous term's total opposition and the Greens are away with their own populist pixies Clive Palmer can thwart a Liberal reform and make life harder for the Coalition.
My bet is that that will be the pattern of the new Senate whenever PUP has its chance, with the exception of ditching the carbon price – one change with a direct benefit for Clive Palmer.
Good luck then to the government in trying to negotiate in such circumstances. Revenge is rarely a reasonable demon, let alone for a man who at various times has suggested the CIA funds the Greens, Wendy Deng is a Chinese agent, Campbell Newman is bipolar and that Tony Abbott's paid parental leave scheme designed to provide money for Peta Credlin.
Michael Pascoe is a BusinessDay contributing editor