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Motoring party deal extends Palmer’s reach

Friday, 11th October, 2013

Clive Palmer has warned the federal government to negotiate or face “a very cold winter” after securing a powerful four-vote bloc in the Senate through an alliance with micro-party senator-elect Ricky Muir.

 The mining magnate has struck an agreement with the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party senator-elect to align with the three newly-elected Palmer United Party (PUP) senators when the new upper house convenes in July.

 Thursday’s announcement included a warning to government senate leader Eric Abetz to work with the new alliance or face the consequences.

 “Erica - is it Erica? - will have to negotiate with our team or he won’t be negotiating at all,” he said.

 “It’ll be a very, very, very, very cold winter.

 “But we hope we can bring that into a nice prosperous summer for the government and the people of Australia.”

 While Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he would try to work constructively with the PUP, he was quick to remind Mr Palmer of the government’s mandate.

 “I’m confident everyone in this parliament very well understands that the new government has a clear mandate to get certain things done,” he told reporters in Brunei.

 The coalition will need the votes of at least six crossbenchers to get bills past the Greens and Labor.

 Mr Muir, who has kept a low profile since his shock election last month, said the voting agreement with Mr Palmer was critically important to the nation’s future and would bring certainty to Australian politics.

 “Together, I can do so much more than I could’ve achieved alone,” Mr Muir told reporters in Sydney.

 But political opponents are asking whether secret deals are behind the move and whether the billionaire is treating federal parliament as his personal plaything, while Mr Muir’s own party is looking at ways it can dump him as senator.

 The AMEP’s former Victorian branch chairman Scott McDonald said party members had been betrayed by Mr Muir after he aligned with Mr Palmer without consulting them.

 “I feel a bit sorry for Ricky because he’s kind of been a puppet stuck in the middle of something that he doesn’t understand,” he said.

 Members plan to meet next Wednesday and could vote to remove the party leader from the senate, Mr McDonald said.

 Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said the public deserved to know the details of the “secret deals” that led to the deal.

 “The key question here is: what backroom deal did the Motoring Enthusiast Party enter into, what are the policies they have both agreed to support?” she said.

 Mr Palmer didn’t reveal the terms of the agreement, saying only it would cover “certain matters” and that the two parties shared common policies.

 Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who faces a recount after losing his West Australian seat by 14 votes to PUP candidate Dio Wang, was sceptical about Mr Palmer’s intentions.

 “Is this a plaything for a rather erratic and eccentric coal billionaire, or is it going to be serious political player?” he told ABC radio.

Mr Palmer may end up wielding significant power in Canberra without even being in parliament himself. His bid for the lower house seat in the electorate of Fairfax hinges on a recount after he beat LNP opponent Ted O’Brien by just seven votes.-AAP

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