Clive Palmer takes the bait

Treasurer Wayne Swan and mining magnate Clive Palmer’s bitter exchange has left the sensationalist mainstream media, and stupid people on both sides of politics, no more or less hysterical than usual.

Swan’s essay in The Monthly, entitled “The 0.01 Per Cent: The Rising Influence of Vested Interests in Australia”, runs with Occupy movement rhetoric in a bold bid not only to draw attention to “billionaire activists” like Clive Palmer, Gina Rinehart, and Andrew Forrest, but also to divert attention from Labor’s shit fight.

The essay is more a political tactic than a political manifesto. If Bernard Keane labelled Tony Abbott as Politician of 2012 based on his success as a political brick wall, Swan deserves some political kudos for playing Palmer like a panpipe.

The language of class struggle is cleverly used to appropriate global concerns with wealth distribution to an Ore-stralian context. Swan opens with, “The rising influence of vested interests is threatening Australia’s egalitarian social contract”. Class is used as both a political tool, and as a reference point to his more party-aligned audience. This double-pronged attack both attempts to resurrect some of Labor’s lost credibility in the eyes of middle Australia, and cleverly baits the Clive Palmers of the world, or more specifically the national treasure himself, into peacocking.

Clive Palmer’s automated response article, “Wayne Swan knows nothing about me, or our democracy” (The Age 2nd March), plays perfectly into the hands of those seeking to establish the real priorities of the mining heavyweights. Palmer writes, “The Labor Party has lost respect for the rights and needs of individual Australians”. The key words there being “individual Australians”, like him!

Swan was very clear in pre-emptively combating this predictable drivel. “Of course, rewards should be proportionate to effort, recognising the hard work and entrepreneurship that create wealth and employment. We should not seek pure equality, but we do need to combat the types of disparities in opportunity that damage our society.”

He attacks “the billionaires’ protests” against the mining and carbon taxes as having been “ferocious and highly misleading campaigns”, with these things we haven’t seen much of lately called facts (a quick Google search on mining industry advertising campaign spending will do). The industry heavies are firmly being told to stop crying poor and be prepared to pay a fair share of taxes for massive amounts of the personal wealth they are extracting from the Commonwealth.

Clive Palmer’s response to the Rudd government’s Resource Super Profits Tax, was that “Real negotiation is should we have a tax or shouldn’t we have a tax”. Palmer claims to not be the voice of the mining industry despite being one of a handful of Australians whose opinions are constantly forced upon the public. He has a loud voice and even his own moon (“Forrest”), but he is also a major Liberal National Party donator.

Palmer has the audacity to go so far as to say that “It would be far better for the Treasurer to face the truth that he personally doesn’t know how the economy works”. Australian tycoons are accusing Euromoney’s world’s best treasurer of 2011 of inciting “class warfare”.

Swan’s language will read as unprecedentedly frank to your average Australian given perceptions surrounding this government’s commitment to commitment. It parrots those “Labor values” we’ve seen demonstrated less and less in recent times, while beckoning readers to question the legitimacy of the political platform that Australia’s super-rich are occupying.  But most importantly, it beckons Clive Palmer to do what Clive Palmer does best: carry on like a mining magnate.