Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Australian mining magnate Clive Palmer, whose political party effectively holds the balance of power in the Senate, accused China of trying to take over the nation’s resources -- earning a rebuke from Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s government.
“They want to take over our ports and get our resources for free,” Palmer said on Australian Broadcasting Corp. television late yesterday. Palmer also labeled a unit of China’s state-owned Citic Pacific Ltd., his partner in the world’s biggest magnetite iron ore mine in Western Australia, as “mongrels”.
Abbott’s government attacked Palmer’s comments as “hugely damaging”, and stressed the importance of Australia’s relationship with its biggest trading partner. The Australian Industry Group condemned Palmer’s comments as “ill-considered and inappropriate.”
Palmer is embroiled in legal battles with Citic Pacific, which has alleged he used funds from a joint account to help finance his political campaign. His nascent Palmer United Party has three senators in Parliament’s upper house, making it an influential force that Abbott’s government must win over to pass legislation should it be opposed by Labor and the Greens.
On the ABC’s Q&A show last night, Palmer denied Citic’s allegations, calling them “Chinese mongrels.”
“I’m saying that because they are communists, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system and they want to take over this country,” Palmer said.
Citic Pacific declined to comment when contacted today.
“It’s hugely damaging for Mr. Palmer to make those sort of comments because ultimately, he is the big beneficiary of a Chinese investment partner; someone that has paid to help him to develop his resources,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said today. “I would say to Mr. Palmer, please do not bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases.”
Western Australia state Premier Colin Barnett has previously criticized Palmer’s long-running dispute with Citic, saying it risks Australia’s relationship with China.
Jacqui Lambie, one of three Palmer United Party senators, defended Palmer’s statements today.
“If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defense policy, which ignores the threat of a Chinese Communist invasion –- you’re delusional and got rocks in your head,” Lambie said in a statement cited by the Australian newspaper today. “The Communist Chinese military capacity and level of threat to the western world democracies is at an unprecedented and historical high.”
“The Abbott government wants to make it perfectly clear that it greatly values Australia’s strong and growing relationship with China and its people,” Trade Minister Andrew Robb said in an e-mailed statement today. “Peripheral issues will not distract the government in its work to broaden and deepen this most important relationship.”