Clive Palmer

Last updated

Clive Palmer
Clive Palmer Aug15 crop.jpg
Leader of the Clive Palmer's United Australia Party
Assumed office
12 December 2018
Preceded byparty re-registered
In office
April 2013 5 May 2017
Preceded byparty established
Succeeded byparty deregistered
Member of the Australian Parliament
for Fairfax
In office
7 September 2013 9 May 2016
Preceded by Alex Somlyay
Succeeded by Ted O'Brien
State Campaign Director of the
National Party in Queensland
In office
13 September 1983 1 December 1987[ citation needed ]
Nominated by Joh Bjelke-Petersen
LeaderJoh Bjelke-Petersen
Mike Ahern
Personal details
Clive Frederick Palmer

(1954-03-26) 26 March 1954 (age 66)
Footscray, Victoria, Australia
Political party United Australia (since 2013)
Other political
Susan Parker
(m. 1983;wid. 2006)

Annastacia Topalov
(m. 2007)
Parents George Palmer
Nancy McArthur
Residence Sovereign Islands, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia [1]
Alma mater University of Queensland
Occupation Mining company chairman
Shipping company chairman
Holiday resort hotel owner
  • (Palmer Coolum Resort)
Profession Businessman
Net worth

Clive Frederick Palmer (born 26 March 1954) is an Australian businessman [6] and politician. [7] He has iron ore, nickel and coal holdings. In 2016, the BRW magazine "Rich 200" list estimated his wealth at A$600 million [8] and in 2019, the AFR reported that his wealth had increased to A$4.09 billion. [9] [10]


Palmer owns Mineralogy, Waratah Coal, Queensland Nickel at Townsville, Palmer Coolum Resort on the Sunshine Coast, Palmer Sea Reef Golf Course at Port Douglas, Palmer Colonial Golf Course at Robina, and the Palmer Gold Coast Golf Course, also at Robina. He owned Gold Coast United FC from 2008 to 2012. [11] Palmer created the Palmer United Party in April 2013, winning the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax in the 2013 Australian federal election and sitting as an MP for one term. He formally de-registered the party on 5 May 2017.

In 2018, Palmer unsuccessfully revived his party as the United Australia Party, announcing he would be running candidates in all 151 seats, later announcing he would run as a Queensland candidate in the Senate. [12]

Early life

Palmer was born at Footscray Hospital in Footscray, a suburb of Melbourne, Victoria on 26 March 1954, and spent his early years in the nearby suburb of Williamstown. [13] [14] His family moved to Queensland in 1963 [13] and Palmer was largely raised on the Gold Coast, where he attended Aquinas College and Southport State High School, although he also attended Toowoomba Grammar School for a short time. [14] Palmer's father, George, was a travel agent, and the family travelled the world extensively. [15] George Palmer was also the proprietor of the Akron Tyre Co and the Akron Broadcasting Co and, thus, the founder of Melbourne broadcasting station 3AK (now operating as SEN 1116). [16]

Palmer studied law, journalism and politics at the University of Queensland from 1973 to 1975, but did not finish the course. He later completed a Diploma of Law through the Queensland Bar Board, and worked as a clerk and interviewing officer for the Public Defender's Office. [17]

Business career

Real estate

During the early to mid-1980s Palmer was a real estate agent. He did well from the property boom on the Gold Coast, and "retired" at the age of 29. [18] [19]


In 1985 and 1986 Palmer founded three companies which undertook mining exploration in Western Australia. [18] These included Mineralogy, a company which in 2006 had 160 billion tonnes (160×10^9 long tons; 180×10^9 short tons) of iron ore reserves in the Pilbara Ranges, in remote northern Western Australia. [20] In 2008, Palmer bought Waratah Coal. [21] Palmer transferred Mineralogy to New Zealand in December 2018, and moved it again to Singapore in January 2019. [22]

Mineralogy has been involved in a long-running dispute with CITIC over a royalty payment. Mineralogy and CITIC entered into an agreement in 2006 to develop some of the iron ore reserves Palmer owns. [18] In November 2017, Justice Kenneth Martin of the Supreme Court of Western Australia awarded Mineralogy nearly $200 million. Palmer said the decision was "a win for Australian law over Chinese Communist government powerhouses". [23] As of May 2019, CITIC was suing Palmer and he had counter-sued them for $5 billion. [22]

Queensland Nickel

In 2009, he bought Queensland Nickel and the Palmer Nickel and Cobalt Refinery after BHP was going to close the refinery. [24] In the first year after purchasing the refinery, Palmer gifted staff 50 Mercedes Benz cars and thousands of overseas holidays after the refinery turned a huge profit. [25] On 18 January 2016, Queensland Nickel entered voluntary administration. [26] Palmer declined to pay the entitlements of workers who lost their jobs when Queensland Nickel closed, stating that "I have no personal responsibility, I retired from business over three years ago". [27] He also blamed the administrators for sacking the workforce. This forced the Federal Government to cover the workers' entitlements. [28]

In April 2019 Palmer announced that he intended to re-open the Queensland Nickel refinery and pay the $7.16 million still owed to workers following the 2019 federal election. [29]

The Special Purpose Liquidator of Queensland Nickel stated that Palmer's offer was inadequate as it did not cover the money owed to small businesses and was unclear whether he would repay the Federal Government. The Liquidator was seeking $200 million from Palmer, other individuals and related entities, with a trial to take place from July 2019. [28] The Australian Government was also seeking to recover $70 million from Palmer personally to meet the costs of the payments it made to Queensland Nickel workers through the same trial. [30] Palmer stated in April 2019 that the administrators should repay the government as they were responsible for sacking the refinery's workers, and not him. The Canberra Times reported that 218 workers were made redundant shortly before the operation was placed into voluntary administration. [29]

In August 2019 Palmer reached a settlement two weeks into a trial in the Queensland Supreme Court. The settlement included repaying the Commonwealth what it had paid under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG), all other employee entitlements and most unsecured creditors. [31]

Palmer maintained his position that the scheme should never have been triggered by the liquidators in the first place and under the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the Special Purpose Liquidator withdrew all claims the SPL made against Palmer and all of the defendants associated with him.[ citation needed ] All parties paid their own costs in the court matter. Palmer personally appeared in court and represented himself.[ citation needed ]

Palmer Coolum Resort: Dinosaur Park

Palmer purchased the Coolum Hyatt Resort in 2011. [32] He later announced plans to build a park featuring animatronic dinosaurs there. Palmer ordered more than 160 animatronic dinosaurs, which included an initial shipment of a 3.5-metre (11 ft) tall, 20-metre (66 ft) long T. rex, nicknamed "Jeff". Palmer received full council approval for the park on 25 July 2013, and it was expected to open to the public in 2014. [33] On 14 December 2013, the dinosaur park, now called "Palmersaurus", was opened to the public. [34] Palmer's installation of dinosaurs along the side of the resort's golf course led the Australian PGA Championship to be relocated from it. [35]

The Palmer Coolum Resort was mothballed in 2015 due to low occupancy rates, with 600 people losing their jobs over the period after Palmer purchased the complex. [32] In 2017, the ABC reported that "once regarded as one of south-east Queensland's most prestigious resorts, the site is a shadow of its former self and has been the centre of a legal battle between retirees who own villa shares and Clive Palmer". [36] In 2018 the Australian Securities and Investments Commission charged Palmer with violations of the Corporation Act in relation to an attempt to take over timeshare villas at the resort in 2012. Palmer has stated that the charges are an attempt to stop him standing for election. [37]


Palmer purchased the Gold Coast United football club in 2008. [38] In October 2009, he made a decision to cap attendances of Gold Coast United home games at Skilled Park stadium to 5,000, [39] in a bid to save money by avoiding transport subsidies on crowds over 5,000. [39] After a widespread backlash and only 2,616 fans attending the next home game, and the intervention of Football Federation Australia (FFA), the idea was scrapped. [39]

On 29 February 2012, Ben Buckley and Frank Lowy announced that Palmer's licence for Gold Coast United FC was to be revoked for constant breaches of FFA rules and regulations and sought to pay out the contracts of the players for the remaining month of the season. [40] Lowy stated that he acted in order to protect the integrity of the sport. [41] However, Palmer stipulated that he would contest the decisions through legal action and claimed Lowy was a dictator. [41] Despite a ruling ordering the removal of "Freedom of Speech" logos on team shirts, Palmer indicated they would remain. [42] On 2 March 2012, Palmer lost his Supreme Court bid against Gold Coast United's expulsion from the A-League. [43]

In 2012, after the FFA revoked his Gold Coast United A-League licence, Palmer founded Football Australia   a competing organisation for the sport of football in Australia. [44]


Palmer has frequently been involved in legal cases relating to his businesses, and once listed litigation as one of his hobbies in Who's Who. He at times has been involved in complex cases, and journalist Hedley Thomas has written that Palmer's "lawyers take legal steps, presumably on his instructions, that prolong litigation and rack up costs for the other side" which can result in his opponents being unable to continue their case due to a lack of resources. Palmer has argued that the litigation he is involved in is justified as it rights wrongs. [45]

In August 2019 Palmer reached a settlement in the Queensland Nickel case, understood to total $110m, agreeing to repay the federal government for the entitlements it has already paid, “all other outstanding employee entitlements, and a full recovery for the majority of unsecured creditors”. A small number of debt claims against Palmer's flagship company, Mineralogy, remain in dispute and before the courts. Palmer claimed that the settlement of the debts had left him “vindicated”. “Today’s settlement confirms the actions against me were nothing more than a witch-hunt designed to smear my good reputation”, Palmer said. [46]

In February 2020, it was revealed that Palmer is to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on 20 March 2020 to answer four charges, brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), reportedly "for dishonestly gaining an advantage and dishonestly using his position as the director of a corporation". It has not been revealed which business activities the charges relate to, although they are said to concern events in 2013. Palmer has denied that the charges relate to the collapse of Queensland Nickel, commenting: "It's just a fabricated charge which will be dismissed pretty easily which is what we do with ASIC charges which are political in nature." [47]

Other activities

In June 2002, Palmer was appointed adjunct professor of business at Deakin University's Faculty of Business and Law, a role he held until 2006. During that time, he delivered a series of lectures as part of Deakin's MBA residential programs. [48] In 2008, Palmer was appointed adjunct professor of management at Bond University on the Gold Coast. [49]

In December 2012, Palmer was appointed joint secretary general of the World Leadership Alliance, a new democracy-promoting council that included former US president Bill Clinton and Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Palmer was named president of the alliance's business chapter, the World Economic Council. [50] [51]

In December 2012, on Christmas Day, Palmer hosted a buffet lunch for 650 disadvantaged people, mostly children and their families. [52]

In July 2013, Palmer was referred to in an iPhone application making light of then Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, by having sandwiches thrown at her. News Corp Australia publications were critical of the app, calling it sexist, whilst referencing his weight in an opinion poll with an option saying "We should have one for big Clive Palmer". [53]

On 4 March 2012, Palmer was named, amid controversy, [54] as a National Living Treasure by the New South Wales Branch of the National Trust of Australia. [55] [56]

In 2015, Palmer donated a house, car and food to victims of a house fire in Beenleigh that saw their son tragically lose his life. [57]

In 2017, Palmer lost a lot of weight[ citation needed ]. This was accompanied by a renewed dedication to posting regular memes on his official Facebook page. The memes often have nonsensical or ironic undertones, and contain reoccurring themes – such as Rupert Murdoch's control of the media in Australia, contrasting himself with other political figures such as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, or paying homage to Tim Tam packets and his pet "Grog Dog". [58] [59] Palmer was once required to provide an affidavit explaining a tweet sent out during a hearing on 1 December 2017. [60] [61]

In March 2020, as the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic was spreading in Australia, Palmer placed a prominent media advertisement offering to personally fund one million doses of a "cure" for the disease. The medication would include hydroxychloroquine, which is established in other countries as an anti-malarial drug but is known to have serious side-effects. The Australian drugs regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), had warned that this drug and its derivatives “pose well-known serious risks to patients including cardiac toxicity potentially leading to sudden heart attacks, irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma”. The TGA stated that it was considering legal action against Palmer. Other experts also criticised Palmer, concerning safety as well as the ethics of potentially producing a shortage of the drug in countries where it is needed to combat malaria. [62]

Titanic II

In February 2013, at a press conference in New York, Palmer announced plans to build a modern-day replica of the liner RMS Titanic. It was planned that Titanic II would be built in China and would make its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City in 2016 (later postponed to 2018). Palmer hoped to recreate the Titanic as closely as possible with its familiar external and internal appearances. According to Palmer, the Titanic II would be 883 feet long, weigh 55,800 gross tons and carry 2,435 passengers and 900 crew. Palmer said the Titanic II would honour the memories of those who died and survived on the Titanic. The Titanic was operated by the White Star Line and Palmer's cruise company is named Blue Star Line.

During the first half of 2015, evidence accumulated strongly suggesting that the project had been abandoned. The Blue Star Line trademark was listed as "abandoned". [63] No construction had been ordered in the Chinese shipyard identified as the likely building site with the workers highly skeptical that the project would ever move beyond the proposal stage. [64] In May 2016 it was reported by the administrators for an insolvent Palmer company, Queensland Nickel, that no significant money had been spent on the development of Titanic II in over two years. [65] On 27 September 2018 the Blue Star Line, in a press release on their official web site, announced that work on the project would recommence but there has been no confirmation of this since. [66] Prior to this media release the web site had not been updated since May 2014.


Palmer was instrumental in the split of the South Australian conservatives in the 1970s, and was active in the Liberal Movement headed by former Premier of South Australia, Steele Hall. [67] Palmer joined the Queensland division of the Nationals in 1974, having been influenced by the policies of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Premier of Queensland at the time. [68] From the early 1980s, he was involved in state politics, serving as the National Party's campaign director during the 1983 state election and as media spokesman during its 1986 election campaign, both of which were successful. [69]

Palmer was a backer of the disastrous "Joh for Canberra" campaign, which unsuccessfully attempted to get highly controversial Far-Right Queensland Premier Bjelke-Petersen elected as Prime Minister of Australia at the 1987 federal election. [18] Palmer was elected to life membership of the party in 1992, which he retained after the state branches of the Nationals and Liberal Party merged to form the Liberal National Party of Queensland in 2008. [14]

In late April 2012, Palmer announced that he would contest Liberal National Party preselection for the Division of Lilley at the 2013 federal election, held by Wayne Swan, the then Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer. [70] [71] However, in July that year, he announced his intention to seek preselection for a different seat, including possibly the Division of Kennedy, held by Bob Katter of Katter's Australian Party (formerly sitting as a National and an independent). [72] [73]

Several months after announcing his intent to seek preselection, Palmer resigned his life membership of the Liberal National Party. [74] His membership of the party had been suspended on 9 November 2012, following his comments on the actions of state government ministers. [75] He was re-instated to the party on 22 November, but resigned the same day. [76]

In March 2012, Palmer accused Drew Hutton and Greenpeace of receiving funding from the CIA, due to Hutton's involvement in the preparation of a Greenpeace strategy titled "Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom". [77] [78] His claims were dismissed by Greenpeace senior campaigner John Hepburn as "ludicrous", and he said that Greenpeace would not accept money from any government, corporation or secret service. [79] His claims were also rejected by the CIA. [80]

On 25 April 2013, Palmer announced a "reformation" of the United Australia Party, which had been folded into the present-day Liberal Party in 1945, to stand candidates in the 2013 federal election, and had applied for its registration in Queensland. [81] [82] Another representative of a former South Australian political party, The United Party, lodged a formal objection to the registration of the name "Palmer United Party" with the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC). [83] The AEC further determined that the names "Uniting Australia Party" and "Palmer United Party" were distinct and the name "Palmer United Party" was not prohibited. [84]

Member of Parliament

Palmer ran as the candidate in the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax for his party in the 2013 Australian federal election. In the first count he won by only 7 votes over Liberal National Party (LNP) candidate Ted O'Brien, triggering an automatic recount. While he had won only 26.5 percent of the primary vote, Palmer overtook O'Brien on Labor and Green preferences. During the recount, he filed many challenges to votes cast for O'Brien, and made unsupported claims that the Australian Electoral Commission was tainted by corruption. Ultimately, he was confirmed as winner with 50.3% of the vote – a margin of 53 votes. [85] [86]

His party was also successful in the Senate in 2013, where three of his party members were elected and won a shared balance of power. The senators were elected in Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania.But soon the party fell into disarray. The Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie resigned from the Palmer United Party on 24 November 2014 announcing that she would remain in the Senate as an independent. Lambie's resignation followed several weeks of disagreements with Palmer. The Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus also quit the party on 13 March 2015 citing issues with Palmer.

In his maiden speech to federal parliament, Palmer implied that the government was "deaf to the everyday struggles of all Australians" and stated that "the entrenchment of the two-party system in this country not only threatens democracy but destroys the creativity of the nation." [87] [88]

Palmer was absent from Parliament more than any other MP in the 44th Parliament; he only attended 64 percent of sitting days in 2014 and 54 percent in 2015. [89] He was rarely seen in his own electorate, preferring to reside at his Gold Coast residence. At one point, he went seven months without setting foot in Fairfax. His LNP opponent in 2013, O'Brien, claimed that many residents had come to him for help after not being able to get help from Palmer, to the point that many of them considered him their MP. [90]

In May 2016, Palmer announced he would not seek reelection to his seat of Fairfax or run for the Senate and retire from politics. [91] [92] This all but assured that Fairfax would revert to the LNP; like most Sunshine Coast seats, it would have been a comfortably safe LNP seat in a traditional two-party matchup. As expected, O'Brien reclaimed the seat for the LNP resoundingly.

Palmer deregistered the party's state branches in September 2016, initially intending to keep it active at the federal level. [93] However, in April 2017, he announced that the party would be wound up. [94]

In February 2018, Palmer announced his intention to resurrect his party and return to federal politics. [95] The party was revived that June under its original name, the United Australia Party. Even while using the name Palmer United, the party continued to brand itself as a revival of the original UAP; then as now, it reckoned the original UAP's three leaders – Joseph Lyons, Robert Menzies and Billy Hughes – as its former leaders.[ citation needed ] Former One Nation senator Brian Burston joined the United Australia Party in June 2018. [96] [97]

In April 2019, Palmer stated that he would stand for the Senate in Queensland in the 2019 Australian federal election. [12] Palmer spent $60 million at the 2019 election. He and his party did not win any seats in the election. [98]

In September 2019, Palmer threatened to sue YouTube blogger Jordan Shanks for defamation relating to a video posted before the 2019 election. [99] The video created by Shanks called Palmer a "dense Humpty Dumpty" and a profane nickname that included "Fatty". Shanks responded that he had not defamed Palmer and being required to prove his claims in court would not help Palmer. [100]

Personal life

Palmer lives in a gated mansion on Sovereign Islands, an exclusive community on the Gold Coast. News Limited reports that property records reveal "Mr Palmer, his family and associates own a total of 11 homes in the Sovereign Islands, a gated enclave developed on reclaimed land on the banks of the Southport Broadwater." Palmer also owns homes at Broadbeach Waters on the Gold Coast, Fig Tree Pocket in Brisbane and in Sofia in Bulgaria. [1] Other holdings include properties in Brisbane, Jandowae on the Darling Downs, Queensland, Port Douglas in Queensland and Bora Bora, French Polynesia. In addition, his wife owns an undisclosed number of properties held in trust. [101] He was reported to have spent more than A$20m during 2018–19 on luxury homes on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane and Perth. [102]

Palmer was married to his first wife for 22 years. He has two adult children: a son, Michael and a daughter, Emily. [103] His first wife, Susan Palmer, died from cancer in 2006. In 2007, he married Anna, and they have two daughters, Mary and Lucy. [104] [105] Palmer is a Roman Catholic and was a prominent member of Right to Life Australia while at university, organising pro-life rallies on campus. [106] [107]

While watching a soccer game in October 2009, Palmer was thought to have suffered a heart attack, and was taken to hospital. However, doctors dismissed it as merely a heart palpitation. [108] Palmer has also suffered from sleep apnoea. [109]

Wealth rankings

Year Financial Review
Rich List
Australia's 50 Richest
Rank Net worth
A$  bn
RankNet worth
US$ bn
2010 [110] 73.92
2011 [111] [112] 5Increase2.svg5.05 Increase2.svgn/anot listed
2012 [113] [114] 8Decrease2.svg3.85 Decrease2.svg29Increase2.svg0.80 Increase2.svg
2013 [115] [116] [117] 16Decrease2.svg2.20 Decrease2.svg31Decrease2.svg
2014 [118] [119] 28Decrease2.svg1.22 Decrease2.svg50Decrease2.svg0.55 Decrease2.svg
2015 [4] [5] 30Decrease2.svg1.40 Increase2.svgn/a Decrease2.svgnot listed Decrease2.svg
2016 [120] 112Decrease2.svg0.57 Decrease2.svg
2018 [121] 202.84 Increase2.svg
2019 [122] 15Increase2.svg4.09 Increase2.svg
Icon Description
Steady2.svgHas not changed from the previous year
Increase2.svgHas increased from the previous year
Decrease2.svgHas decreased from the previous year

Up until 2013, the 'Forbes list included Australia's 40 richest people; it then expanded to 50 people.

See also

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Parliament of Australia
Preceded by
Alex Somlyay
Member for Fairfax
Succeeded by
Ted O'Brien