Clive Palmer has been accused of buying his way into Northern Territory politics after three indigenous MPs joined his party a month after walking out on the Giles government.
The Palmer United Party founder declared that Alison Anderson would be chief minister after the next territory election, after announcing that she, Larissa Lee and Francis Xavier Kurrupuwu were now part of the Palmer United Party (PUP).
The three MPs quit the ruling Country Liberal Party at the beginning of April as a result of a rift between Ms Anderson and Chief Minister Adam Giles, saying they wanted to create their own regional political party.
But on Sunday they revealed they had joined the Palmer United fold, with Ms Anderson to be the party’s leader in the territory.
Mr Palmer said the trio had approached the PUP, not the other way around.
He said his party were in discussions with other territory parliamentarians, and expected them to join the PUP in the next few weeks.
“I think she’ll (Ms Anderson) be the chief minister after the next election,” Mr Palmer told ABC Television.
“That government is falling apart, it’s not really got a good future.”
And we won’t stand up for any of these bullyboy tactics by some rich bloke from the Gold Coast.
But Mr Giles said the multi-billionaire miner was trying to “buy government” in the NT, and was not concerned that other members of the CLP could join Mr Palmer’s party.
“Clive can try and throw his money around as much as he wants but I can tell you the members of the CLP, the Country Liberals, are not for sale, the Northern Territory’s not for sale,” he told Sky News.
“And we won’t stand up for any of these bullyboy tactics by some rich bloke from the Gold Coast.”
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman joined in the criticism of the former Liberal National Party member, saying questions needed to be asked about what cash, jobs and financial support Mr Palmer had offered the three MPs.
Ms Anderson defended her defection, describing the PUP as “the new force in Australian politics”.
Asked what was in the PUP deal for the three NT MPs, she said: “I think it gives us comfort, it gives us stability, it gives us a home”.
“He’s welcomed us, and said that you can come on board with his party, and we’re happy to do that,” she told ABC Television.
Pension age will remain
Mr Palmer also said his party would not support a rise in the pension age, which had been a major focus of pre-budget speculation.
Treasurer Joe Hockey last week described any increase in the pension age as an “inevitability”, but stopped short of confirming his first budget will lift it to 70.
Mr Palmer, whose Palmer United Party will soon hold the balance of power in the Senate with other crossbenchers, said he would not back a rise in pension age.
“I just couldn’t employ Joe Hockey or Tony Abbott at 69, no matter how competent they are,” Mr Palmer told ABC Television on Sunday.
“They wouldn’t have a good future and I wouldn’t invest the time in training them because they would be retiring the next year.”