Whilst Palmer, who is known for his inflated ego, might take umbrage at these assertions, the average cynical punter would declare, “Perfect fit for PM, I’ll vote for the PUP. What a wag he is.”
And running with that headline, The Australian’s Inquirer ran a piece on 15 June 2013. Here are some excerpts:
Clive Palmer is courting the media and the popular vote in an ambitious bid to become prime minister. As his political bandwagon crosses the country and former footballers join Palmer relatives, friends and senior employees signing up for a wild ride on this Queensland-inspired electoral juggernaut, the promises fly thick and fast.
Palmer and his barrackers pledge to grow the economy, cut red tape and create thousands of jobs. They promise much more in a titanic quest for power but Palmer is a veteran of attention-seeking: the former Gold Coast property developer cut his teeth in politics with another unlikely leader, Joh Bjelke-Petersen. And Palmer has also mastered the art of hyperbole.
As Palmer asks Australians to size him up, look in his eyes, be impressed by his commercial success and then vote for him, he revels in his parallel universe. It is a universe embellished in cheerful profiles with the appearance of wealth and opulence on a gargantuan scale.
In this universe, those who work for him are often seen as highly fortunate and content.
The operation of the assets he owns or controls – from a Townsville nickel refinery, Yabulu, to a Sunshine Coast resort, the former Hyatt Coolum, to a vast iron ore resource in the Pilbara – is portrayed as vibrant and successful.
The communities in which Palmer’s businesses operate and the stakeholders with whom he does business are invariably depicted as grateful beneficiaries of his generosity and business acumen. And in this universe, Palmer is usually described as a billionaire miner, one of Australia’s richest, a somewhat eccentric, publicity-loving, far-seeing visionary and “professor” of international renown with a penchant for private jets, vintage cars and grandstanding entrances.
Part of the public and media perception is true. But it has also been fuelled by exaggeration, fiction and the omission of facts that do not fit a popular narrative.
Inquirer can reveal a different portrait emerges from the claims of still-serving staff as well as insiders who worked for Clive Frederick Palmer.
This different portrait is of a belligerent, finger-wagging and sometimes verbally abusive employer, increasingly in the spotlight in his quest to be prime minister, who makes promises big and small but does not always deliver.
Now, as he talks of the Palmer United Party’s plans for improving the lives of Australians, people from his core businesses describe bizarre decisions and numerous broken pledges. There have been serious hardships and job losses for staff and community who believed they had security.
In beachside Coolum on the Sunshine Coast, a little more than an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, numerous people interviewed by Inquirer have little positive to say about Palmer because of the impact his arrival and management style has had on local families, businesses and the community.
Early in the piece in 2011 when Palmer, using funds from the then-profitable Queensland Nickel, bought the five-star Hyatt-badged resort and its adjoining golf course from Lend Lease, the community had high hopes.
Palmer promised a major refurbishment, redevelopment and better conditions and more opportunities for staff and Coolum. He was heralded as a lightning rod for positive change and a draw-card for visitors. The struggling local economy relied heavily on spending by international and Australian visitors to the Hyatt and some 150ha beneath Mount Coolum. Its annual showpiece, the signature Australian PGA Championship, was a lucrative earner that taxpayers had helped foster.
But the bubble has burst in the Coolum community, part of the federal seat of Fairfax in which Palmer is running as a 2013 election candidate.
The Hyatt brand and much of the goodwill is long gone – its ties with Palmer were severed in 2012 after he accused it of running something approaching a criminal racket (one of a number of serious claims that he backed away from when their dispute went to the Supreme Court).
Now, the resort is shunned by visitors and has become a focus of ridicule and regret. They cite the abysmal occupancy rates (sometimes in the low single-digits) of the re-named Palmer Coolum Resort, the sacking of hundreds of workers, the loss of the Australian PGA, the bizarre dinosaur replicas in the grounds, a wall of framed portraits of Palmer in the lobby, the screening in the rooms of a fawning profile by the ABC’s Australian Story, and curiously higher prices, all of which have deterred visitors. The resort’s more scathing reviews by guests on Trip Advisor are excruciating reading.
While many people fear being sued if they speak out, Gaye Williams, a respected longtime Coolum stalwart and business owner, tells Inquirer that Australians need to know this side of the Palmer story. Palmer is, after all, seeking to be the next prime minister. She says hard-working families in Coolum and its local economy bear scars from Palmer’s arrival and antics at the resort over the past two years.
“It has been a huge kick in the guts. This is a small town. It is affecting everyone the tradies, the restaurants, retail, lifeguards. We are very disappointed,” says Williams. “It’s his resort. He owns it. He is entitled to make these decisions. But he spruiks in the media, on TV shows and on 60 Minutes about how he’s doing wonders for the Australian economy and growing businesses. The reality here is different.
“He can sack who he likes but don’t tell them one day their jobs are safe, then get rid of them. Don’t say you’re doing the right thing. He has been such a successful businessman that I actually defended him at first. Now he is treated as a joke. The resort is a shrine to Clive. People here look and laugh about it. Everyone laughs at him.”
Sixteen months later, an estimated 400 staff and casuals are gone from a quality resort that is likened by locals to a Jurassic-style circus. Several of those who remain tell Inquirer of Palmer’s strong influence on key decisions in the running of the resort in spite of its continuing loss of market share.
“A lot of people are unsure about the future of the area because of him coming in here,” says a Coolum retailer, Howard Gelfand. “I’m not a great fan of Clive. I don’t see any good points from him coming here. If he did just 5 per cent of what he said he was going to do, Coolum might get a lift. What has he done for the area? He wants to be pandered to. He doesn’t want to be asked any tough questions.”
The Australian’s Inquirer article