Eccentric billionaire Clive Palmer an unlikely winner in Australian polls

Eccentric resources baron Clive Palmer emerged as a surprise winner in Australia's elections on Saturday, polling strongly in his native Queensland and on track to win a seat. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Eccentric resources baron Clive Palmer emerged as a surprise winner in Australia's elections on Saturday, polling strongly in his native Queensland and on track to win a seat. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Eccentric resources baron Clive Palmer emerged as a surprise winner in Australia's elections on Saturday, polling strongly in his native Queensland and on track to win a seat.

Mr Palmer was set to be elected to the House of Representatives and unseat the conservative incumbent in a shock result after a deep-pocketed populist campaign in the Sunshine Coast district of Fairfax, with 51.9 per cent of the vote and 67.8 per cent of ballots counted.

His self-titled Palmer United Party won more than 11 per cent of the vote in Queensland and 5.7 per cent nationwide, prompting him to claim he could "win the whole country in the next three years".

"Governments may come and go, but ideas go on forever. What we'll contribute of course is ideas - ideas stimulate debate in the country which has been sorely lacking in this campaign, and that we can do something positive for the country that we all love." Analysts said Mr Palmer had attracted a large protest vote against the major parties, and helped soften the blow against Labor by taking seats from the conservatives.

"There is an anti-party feeling I think in this," said Monash University senior lecturer in politics, Nick Economou.

"It's picked up people who might have voted for the coalition. So I think there's a sense that the Palmer Party has actually mitigated the anti-Labor swing," he added.

Mr Economou said Mr Palmer had "probably achieved what he set out to achieve which is to be a real pain in the side of the conservative side of politics".

The billionaire best known for building a replica of the Titanic and filling his northern Queensland golf resort with giant animatronic dinosaurs, Mr Palmer batted away questions about his intentions as an MP and potential conflicts of interest between his political obligations and business empire.

"I've got more money than you could ever dream of, what's the conflict of interest? How much money do you think I can get out of the government?" said Mr Palmer in trademark combative style.

"You don't need to judge a person by how much money they've got, it's the content of their character that matters." Mr Palmer said his Titanic project and mining business would "continue of course".