Titanic tycoon launches political party in Australia

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian billionaire Clive Palmer, the tycoon who is building a replica of the ill-fated Titanic, on Friday announced he was forming a political party and would run in this year's elections.

The flamboyant mining magnate was a longtime supporter of the opposition Liberal-National coalition but gave up his membership last year after a bitter and public dispute with the government in his home state of Queensland.

He now plans to re-form the United Australia Party, which dissolved in 1945, and contest all 150 lower house seats in the Sept 14 national polls, as well as seats in the upper house Senate.

"The reason I'm standing is to be the next prime minister of Australia," said the larger-than-life Palmer, who runs Waratah Coal and Resourcehouse Limited and is one of the country's richest men.

He joins a growing list of high-profile candidates including Australian-born Julian Assange, who intends to run for the Senate with his WikiLeaks Party.

Mr Palmer has been at loggerheads with Prime Minister Julia Gillard's Labor government over its carbon tax, which he says is ill-conceived and will cost companies dear.

He said his party, the predecessor to the Liberal Party, would be a viable alternative to Labor and the Liberals.

"Julia Gillard and the Labor government are on the nose but Australians are also clearly disillusioned with both the major political parties," he said.

"By reforming the United Australia Party we are offering a viable alternative. The United Australia Party stands for bringing people together.

"Politics today is based on politicians blaming and fighting each other; there is no leadership and no plan to grow the economy. United Australia Party will represent all."

He claimed the party had a number of "notable Australians" that wanted to stand and said his policies included scrapping the carbon tax retrospectively and arranging for asylum-seekers to fly to Australia to seek protection.

As well as politics and mining, Mr Palmer is a real estate developer and tourism resort operator.

His most recent project is the building of a perfect replica of the Titanic, more than a century after the original, supposedly unsinkable ocean liner hit an iceberg and went down in the North Atlantic.

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