Fairfax MP Clive Palmer is a “guy who tried to buy a government” and is now “on a rampage around Australia trying to buy other people and buy people's votes”, says Queensland Premier Campbell Newman, who believes it is time for his party's number one supporter turned biggest critic to “answer the hard questions”.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose government needs the support of the Palmer United-Australian Motoring Enthusiasts voting coalition to pass legislation through the Senate, was happy to let Mr Newman take the lead on criticising Mr Palmer in Brisbane on Sunday.
Mr Palmer was once again dominating the political newscape, with the announcement three Northern Territory Country Liberal Party MPs, who left the ruling party last month, had joined the Palmer United Party.
In response to a question about Mr Palmer labelling Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles “a liar” on television, Mr Newman said “that is what he says about everybody”.
“As far as Mr Palmer goes, everybody else is wrong and he is always right,” Mr Newman said.
“It is time ladies and gentlemen, that you good folk, with the greatest respect ask Mr Palmer the hard questions.
“He is not in business, but then he still is in business, trying to get out of paying the carbon tax obligation and he says he is not in business, but then he is constantly talking about his excuses for why he is not protecting the Great Barrier Reef properly in Townsville.
“This is a guy who tried to buy a government, my government, we said 'go away, we're not for sale'. As a result he has gone on a rampage around Australia trying to buy other people and buy people's votes and we are seeing that in the Northern Territory today.
“I ask what inducements were offered to these three MPs, what promises, what inducements were offered to them to jump ship?"
Mr Newman called on Mr Palmer to curb spending on election campaigning and fulfil his environmental obligations at his Yabulu nickel refinery in Townsville, which has been under the microscope for environmental breaches.
He also highlighted mass job cuts at Mr Palmer's Sunshine Coast Palmer Resort, "which was once an iconic Queensland destination" that had become "a sad, sick joke".
Mr Newman said “now he has bought himself a position of power and influence”, Mr Palmer needed to tell the nation “what he stands for and what he intends to do”.
"If I was a journalist today, I would be saying to Mr Palmer and I would be saying to these three people if they are indeed jumping ship, I'd be saying, what was offered?
“What cash? What jobs? What financial support for elections?
“What offers were made to get them to jump ship? I reckon if he's consistent with the way he operates around the nation, he's busy trying to buy votes and buy people. That's what he does.
“He tried to do that with us, we said no, and as a result, he is now a firm political opponent to this government.”
Mr Palmer said his party was approached by the three MPs and had not sought financial backing.
"They approached us - they liked our policies on indigenous affairs and the economy,” Mr Palmer told Fairfax Media.
"Other Country Liberal MLAs have approached us about joining the party, too. We'll be targeting the balance of power [in the Territory Parliament] and the two federal seats as well."