Odd couple: Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer and former US Vice President Al Gore during a joint press conference in the Great Hall of Parliament House in Canberra. Photo: Alex EllinghausenClive Palmer sure knows how to draw a crowd – even if it’s only reporters.
And they turned out in droves, because it was to be no ordinary late-afternoon press conference.
The venue, Parliament House’s gargantuan ”Great Hall”, is – like the man himself – unorthodox, cavernous, larger than life.
In more than a decade of covering politics in the big house, the Great Hall was a first for a press conference – after all, the lavishly timbered hall, more often used for royal receptions, grand balls and state dinners, can comfortably seat 650 people.
Then came the truth – as reported first by Fairfax Media. Al Gore, former US vice-president, narrowly defeated presidential candidate, and one of the world’s most high-profile environmental activists, was with Mr Palmer.
Curiouser and curiouser. Surely these two had little in common?
What magic could bridge the obvious divide between the greener-than-green maker of the world-beating film An Inconvenient Truth and a billionaire coal and nickel miner schooled in the development politics of Queensland’s notorious ”white shoe brigade”?
Why would Gore lend his support to the PUP, unless that is, Palmer was about to renege on his iron-clad commitment to scrap the carbon tax, which seemed unlikely, even for him. Reading Clive has never been straightforward.
Pretty much since the 2013 election when the conservative populist crashed the citadel, managing to get not just himself elected but another three senators, the mercurial multi-millionaire’s positioning has been a puzzle.
Finally, on the eve of a one-on-one meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Palmer was to unveil his ultimate position.
Introduced by Glenn Lazarus – ”The Brick with Eyes” – there stood Palmer and Gore. A JFK fanatic in his spare time, Palmer heaped praise on his US guest.
Palmer would scrap the carbon tax but insist on conditions to ensure energy savings flowed all the way to consumers.
He would keep the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and protect the Renewable Energy Target. And he would insist on an emissions trading scheme – but with a price of zero.
Twelve minutes later, it was all over as Palmer explained they had to attend an ”urgent” dinner.
So urgent that no questions were allowed. Not one. A man’s gotta eat.