Entertainment People Garry Linnell: Clive Palmer is the poet Australia never knew it had

Garry Linnell: Clive Palmer is the poet Australia never knew it had

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It’s 4am and Clive Palmer has just turned on the bedside light. He yawns, rubs his eyes and wipes the drool from the corner of his mouth.

Then he reaches for the pen and notebook next to his bed.

You might want to look away as he does this. The king-size sheet draped so tightly over his body resembles a handkerchief being used as a tablecloth at a large dinner party.

Now he is writing furiously.

clive palmer borders doctors
Clive Palmer is a poet and he knows it. Photo: Getty

It often happens like this in Clive’s bedroom at this hour.

Lesser men his age are either deeply snoring or staggering toward the bathroom for the umpteenth time cursing their damn prostate.

But Clive is not like most men. He’s a gifted wordsmith.

When the muse strikes, which it often does at this ungodly witching hour, he must write it all down before it is lost.

As the man told a court hearing last week, he routinely follows the common practice of “creative people” by reaching for that notepad at 4am to jot down “doodles and thoughts”.

We should all be grateful for his endless commitment. His work has vastly enriched the nation’s literary standing and added heft to our intellectual reputation.

Who in Australia has not read or heard about his legendary poetry collection – Dreams, Hopes and Reflections –  published in 1981 when he was only 26?

How the man transcended the mundane. Such an old voice for someone so young.

Consider his epic Old Women Young Girls.

I’m old now

Once I was beautiful

Once I was sought after

Once I had diamonds

Once I had gold

Once I had love

But now I am old.

Hard to swallow that lump in your throat, isn’t it? Mercurial stuff.

Clive was in court because he is being sued by Universal Music, which claims Clive misappropriated the song We’re Not Gonna Take It and used it as an advertising jingle for his political party during its unsuccessful federal election campaign last year.

The track was originally recorded in 1984 by the glam metal band Twisted Sister.

Clive insists he penned his own lyrics while “deep in contemplation” after watching the acclaimed movie Network in which the actor Peter Finch, playing an unhinged television anchorman, famously yells out: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more.”

clive palmer twisted sister
Musical theft? Twisted Sister aren’t going to take it. Photo: AAP/TND

I’m sure most of us dislike seeing an eminent figure like Clive having his reputation for originality trashed by such a minor copyright issue.

We can only trust the learned judge will wade through the evidence and make the correct judgment.

It should not be too hard given it all comes down to the word of one of our literary giants against a group of men in heavy make-up, wigs and high-heeled boots whose finest contribution to the world of rhyme and verse was their 1985 song Be Chrool to your Scuel.

But the case does prompt an important question.

Why don’t the rest of our politicians show such passion for language and prose as Clive Palmer?

As the English writer Gilbert Chesterton observed, a good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

By this measure, our nation’s Parliament House is nothing but a room clouded with cheap cigar smoke and occupied by rows of hack writers churning out reams of cliched pulp fiction.

Name the last time you heard an Australian politician utter a memorable line. Recite the one phrase that inspired you, that put steel in your spine.

The Prime Minister is not a poet like Clive. Photo: AAP

If ever a year deserved stirring and passionate speeches from its leaders it has been this one.

Yet not a single federal or state leader has even tried to find words capable of dimpling the skin on our arms and raising the hairs on the back of our necks.

An absence of great words usually signals an absence of imagination and a fear of being seen to be different, a neat summary of the standard of our current political mob from the extreme left to the far right.

It starts at the top. Prime Minister Scott Morrison often sounds like a man auditioning for a job as a movie trailer narrator. He is a man. Who loves short sentences. A man who means business. Who wants to fight back. Who has seen the road ahead. Who’s here for the long haul. Who has never met a cliché he doesn’t like.

Mr Morrison’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is worse; a breathless spewer of acronyms and corporate jargon who always sounds like an intern reporting for his first day at work at Macquarie Bank.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is that school principal we’ve all known who hogs the microphone and turns morning assembly into a droning lecture on the importance of learning.

And so we are left to rely on Clive, who years ago succinctly summed up the thoughts and feelings of an entire nation in his acclaimed poem Leaving Home.

A better world to live in

A better way of life

A better understanding

Free from strife.

We need Clive Palmer out of the courtroom and back where he belongs – front and centre on the nation’s political stage.

He is the bard we need for these times.

A man who always leaves the rest of us speechless.

Walkley Award winner Garry Linnell is one of Australia’s most experienced and respected journalists and editors

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