"Clive Palmer is no longer just a domestic irritant or street-corner Sinophobe. He is now a formal diplomatic liability and international threat." Photo: Jeffrey Chan
Why isn't the government getting anywhere with Clive Palmer?
After some months of puzzlement over this precise question, an answer is now abundantly clear.
They're sending the wrong people.
First they deployed Malcolm Turnbull with a banana split (an opening move of - granted - uncharacteristic institutional astuteness). Mr Palmer, apart from having enjoyed the banana split, seemed unmoved.
There was a "breakfast meeting" with the Prime Minister.
Attorney-General George Brandis ventured along to the Gold Coast's Mesozoic-themed areas for his own chat with the Cliveosaurus. No dice.
And finally Joe Hockey (his diet-whittled shoulders slumped with the burden of everyone being against him, and probably feeling ferociously like a biscuit) grumped up there in person for a pow-wow. Still nothing.
The truth is that there is only one person in the government who could possibly be of use in this scenario, and that person is Julie Bishop.
Why? Because Clive Palmer is now, effectively, a hostile foreign power.
There have been several clues.
First: He has his own air force. This is significant.
Second: He has announced plans to set up his own newspaper, having secured the trading rights to the masthead name The Australasian Times.
Third: He only does press conferences with other foreign leaders.
Fourth: He has commenced a diplomatic war with China. This is not unusual in the annals of minor and deranged charismatic despots.
It's awkward for Australia, because, to the Chinese eye, Mr Palmer looks Australian. To the Australian eye, Mr Palmer looks like a door-to-door animatronics salesman from the planet Zog. But ranked with the Gaddafis and the Berlusconis and the other preposterous blooms in the global bouquet of eccentric 21st century leaders, he looks right at home.
(The distinction of the Cliveosaurus is that he has nothing at all to fear from WikiLeaks. Nothing that we don't know could possibly be any more ridiculous than the stuff we already do know, surely.)
Mr Palmer's deep-set difficulties with China are - as has been widely reported - quite a bit to do with the near-impenetrable thicket of his own business dealings with a large Chinese company.
But his personal antipathy to the Chinese dates back further - much further - than the current Beijing wing-ding.
Browsers of the Australian Women's Weekly in March 1967 might have been intrigued to notice - at the bottom of page 33 - an article entitled "All The World's A School".
The story concerned a precocious 12-year-old called Clive Palmer, who had just crossed the equator for the 33rd time in the company of his parents, Mr and Mrs George Palmer of Surfers Paradise.
"The Palmer family's most terrifying voyage occurred aboard a Dutch freighter in the millpond Java Sea, off Indonesia," the magazine reported, accompanied by a photograph of young Clive bent menacingly over his seated parents.
"Clive was four and a wanderer. While his parents were asleep, he climbed out of the cabin porthole on to a three-inch-wide ledge running along the ship's side. Screams from women passengers sounded the alert. Two Chinese stewards were lowered over the ship's rail.
"As they closed in on Clive, he yelled, 'You keep away from me!'
"'Leave him alone!' bellowed the captain from the bridge, who had stopped the ship and swung out a lifeboat. Meanwhile, Mrs Palmer, forcing calmness into her voice, said: 'What are you doing out there, Clive?'
"'I'm looking for fishies,' the four-year-old replied.
"Finally, Mrs Palmer managed to coax him to the porthole by saying 'Come here, love. There's something I want to brush off your back.' Quickly she grabbed him around the legs, and pulled him to safety."
Mr Palmer's natural suspicion of Chinese people - even those engaged sincerely in an attempt to save his ungrateful preschool arse from a watery death - is not the only notable intelligence to be gleaned from this historical document.
Gimlet-eyed negotiators will of course be drawn to the strategic avenues opened up by the narrative; the extent to which Mr Palmer might feasibly be distracted by the promise of "fishies", for example, or the rich if short-term tactical possibilities in pretending there is something stuck to the man's back.
I say again: It's time for Julie Bishop to get involved.
Clive Palmer is no longer just a domestic irritant or street-corner Sinophobe. He is now a formal diplomatic liability and international threat, requiring the full forces of the Foreign Affairs Department and the blue-steel gaze of our full-time International Oddball specialist, Julie Bishop.
Bishop recently tangled with the diplomatic tentacles of Vladimir Putin, and defused a Brandis-inspired trade war with the Arab states with an inspired semiotic monologue on the difference between between "occupied" and "Occupied". The lady has survived three wildly differing Liberal leaders, gone to the Vatican with Kevin Rudd and Barnaby Joyce, and stared down a garden gnome on national television. Dealing with Clive Palmer wouldn't even be the weirdest thing she's done this week.