Clive's Senate warning
Mining magnate Clive Palmer has recruited a new Senate ally and warned the Abbott government it must deal with him and staff his Senators or face a 'cold winter'.PT2M56S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2vayk 620 349 October 10, 2013
We seek him here, we seek him there, those rev-heads seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell? That demmed, elusive Pimpernel.
- With apologies to Baroness Emma Orczy
It seemed such a mystery. All around the sparsely populated Central Gippsland district hunkered in the shadow of the Victorian Alps, Senator-elect Ricky Muir had become the Scarlet Pimpernel of politics.
He'd clean disappeared. His old mates scratched their heads, kicked the tyres of their big lumps of metal and professed they had no idea why Ricky had done a bunk.
We know now. He'd been doing a deal with the Clown Prince of politics, Clive Palmer.
Ever since a few days after the September 7 federal election when it became clear that Mr Muir had pulled off the most unlikely of victories and would be elected a Senator on 0.5 per cent of the Victorian vote, the four-wheel-drive devotee had disappeared.
It seemed absurd – he lives in a farmhouse in Denison, a rural location that is not even a village. The biggest town nearby, Heyfield, where he'd worked at the big sawmill, has a population of no more than 2100.
He continued to lie low as the Victorian branch of his wonderfully named Motoring Enthusiast Party was sacked last weekend by the party's Queensland-based founder, Keith Littler.
When asked on Tuesday by ABC radio's Jon Faine where Mr Muir might be, Mr Littler told him to pull his head in.
"None of your business," he said, adding elliptically that Mr Muir was undergoing some unspecified "training".
As late as Wednesday afternoon, Fairfax Media contacted one of Heyfield's most clued-in luminaries, Malcolm Hole, to inquire where the district's new Senator might be.
If anyone would know, Mr Hole would be the man. He has served for a record 14 years as a councillor on the Wellington Shire, based in Heyfield, and he's lived in the district since 1969.
He is involved in numerous community groups, is the chairman of the National Timber Councils Association, and has contacts throughout the area known as a gateway to the Alpine National Park.
And he was desperate to talk to the new Senator about how he might use his newfound muscle to assist the district.
''I've met people who know him and who have worked with him and they all speak highly of him, but no one seems to know where he is,'' Cr Hole confessed.
''He knows this country around here and up in the mountains, and I'd like to talk to him about what we're trying to do and how he might be able to help.''
Equally mystified was the National Party's federal member for Gippsland, Darren Chester.
Mr Chester said he'd tried to phone Mr Muir on both his mobile and landline to wish him well, but he'd been unsuccessful and had received no reply.
''I've written him a letter offering any advice he might need or help in setting up an office, but I've heard nothing back from him at all,'' Mr Chester said.
Local publicans, shopkeepers and former work colleagues at the sawmill contacted by Fairfax Media all agreed they were in the dark. Some speculated Mr Muir might have taken his four-wheel-drive into the nearby mountain forests to cogitate about his future.
None of them could have imagined that Mr Muir was in Sydney, tucking into a meal with Jolly Clive Palmer at a fine restaurant, preparing to announce he'd done a deal to support the Palmer Uniting Party in the Senate, thus becoming a significant balance-of-power player.
He appears to have learned much about politics in a short time, far from the whispering forests and the four-wheel-drive tracks of Victoria's alpine region that have for so long held his heart.