Fat Rich Kid Goes Overboard

John Travolta builds a runway outside his mansion, so he can play pilot with his five private jets. Oil baron William Koch constructs a complete Wild West town, so he can play cowboy. Michael Jackson’s “Neverland Ranch” serves as a home, an amusement park and a private zoo. And portly old mining mogul Clive Palmer’s pet project is the Titanic II.

Girls, hold the Kleenex, I didn’t say James Cameron is producing a sequel to his epic romantic tragedy. It’s just a fat rich kid building a big boat. It’s nothing to get soppy over.

In a recent interview, Palmer, when asked why he is building the Titanic II, simply replied “why not.”

Palmer wants to ensure that “the tone is right” as the ship will ultimately serve as a tribute to the 1502 people that died in 1912 aboard the original cruise liner.

But let’s not get catty just because he’s filthy rich. He may own a massive mining empire and be the former owner of the Gold Coast United A-League team, but deep down old Clive is just made of marshmallow. Palmer’s a romantic, a traditionalist. “Titanic,” he says, “represents…the spirit of love. The hope that all men have for peace on earth in our time and goodwill to all men … The Titanic carries the hopes and dreams of people everywhere”.

I thought it was about ferrying the rich over the Atlantic in consummate style, while the plebs rotted in the bilges? Silly me.

Palmer is also one for authenticity. Passengers onboard the replica will dress in the fashion of the period and eat dishes from the original menu, in dining rooms copied from the ill-fated predecessor. Internet access, TV and phones will also be prohibited onboard.

As with the original the first, second and third class passengers will not be able to mingle with each other. Mr Palmer has insisted that he will be travelling third class, dressed in a wig and 1912 garb. (Too far Clive?)

Thankfully, that ornate staircase Rose strides down in the movie will also be replicated, along with the Turkish baths and smoking rooms.

There are a few substantial differences this time round though. The Titanic II will be built in Chinese dockyards rather than Irish ones and it’s also going to be diesel powered. Improved propulsion, an extra deck and the modern miracle of air conditioning will also feature on the new ship. There’s been talk about improved safety features – maybe 2 or 3 more lifeboats this time.

With an estimated net worth of $4 billion last year, it’s unlikely that the Titanic II will sink Palmer’s bank account, nor does he appear worried about those who might be a tad leery about boarding such a dubiously named vessel. Already offers of up to US$1 million for passage on the ship’s maiden voyage have been put forward and more than 40,000 people have expressed interest in retracing the fateful voyage from Southampton to New York when work is finished in 2016.
Palmer is also confident in dealing with the consequences of the current climate change crisis. Palmer, an expert on the subject, tells us that climate change may in fact be a positive for the new ship’s fate as “there hasn’t been as many icebergs in the North Atlantic these days” as a result. Top stuff, Clive.

I’m sure plenty of people will disapprove, claim that Palmer’s plans are in bad taste and whine about how extreme wealth today has become an opportunity for self-gratification. Yeah, so what? Clive’s idea is a little childish, but I’d rather the fat cats spent their money on ridiculously ambitious things that capture the imagination rather than on grandiose yet ultimately conventional purchases. Thinking of hiring Beyonce for the kids’ birthday party? Now that’s what I call self-gratification.