'Titanic' tycoon clinches Australian power-sharing deal

Flamboyant mining tycoon Clive Palmer brokered a crucial alliance on Thursday giving him the balance of power in Australia's new parliament, warning of a "very cold winter" if the government tries to cross him. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
Flamboyant mining tycoon Clive Palmer brokered a crucial alliance on Thursday giving him the balance of power in Australia's new parliament, warning of a "very cold winter" if the government tries to cross him. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (AFP) - Flamboyant mining tycoon Clive Palmer brokered a crucial alliance on Thursday giving him the balance of power in Australia's new parliament, warning of a "very cold winter" if the government tries to cross him.

Mr Palmer, famous for building a full-scale replica of the Titanic and a robotic dinosaur park in northern Australia, said he had joined forces with the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (AMEP) to form a bloc that will be key to passing legislation through the upper house.

"We're one team of people working together because we've got common policies," Mr Palmer told reporters in Sydney.

The colourful resources billionaire's self-titled Palmer United Party (PUP) won three Senate seats at the September 7 elections and he is still in the running himself for a lower house seat, with a recount under way after the initial tally was too close to call.

Already wielding considerable clout in the new Senate, Mr Palmer cemented his leverage by inking a deal with AMEP senator-elect Ricky Muir, a fringe candidate who found his way into parliament through a series of complex vote-swapping deals despite securing just 0.5 percent of the primary vote.

Together Mr Muir, and Mr Palmer's three senators, will have the deciding vote on proposed laws, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott's conservative government needing to secure at least six minority party votes - including at least two of their four - to pass legislation.

The new Senate takes effect from July next year.

Mr Palmer sounded a warning to Mr Abbott's chief in the Senate, Eric Abetz, who he taunted with the nickname "Erica".

"If Erica says he wants to negotiate individually with people, well, he'll have to negotiate with our team or he won't be negotiating at all. It'll be a very, very, very, very cold winter," he said.

Mr Abbott countered with a caution of his own.

"I'm confident that everyone in this parliament very well understands that the new government has a clear mandate to get certain things done," he said from Brunei, where he is attending the East Asia Summit. "And I'm confident that minor parties in the Senate understand that and will support that."

Mr Abbott promised to work "as constructively as I can with everyone in the parliament" and said he would "treat all members of parliament with courtesy and respect, including minor party and independent members of parliament".

Mr Muir's AMEP policies include "the average Australian family's right to modify and restore vehicles based on their own freedom of expression" and advocate "four-wheel driving, camping, fishing and other recreational pursuits".

Mr Palmer said his party "certainly support the Motorists' party and their aspirations for motorists in Australia", while Mr Muir backed PUP's economic and other policies.