Michelle Grattan June 12, 2012
Clive Palmer Photo: Rob Homer
MINING magnate Clive Palmer - who did not score an invitation to Julia Gillard's economic forum - has described it as a ''political stunt''.
His attack came as the Prime Minister tried to embarrass Queensland Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman into attending the meeting, starting tonight in Brisbane. ''There's a spot there for Premier Newman if he would like it,'' she said. But Mr Newman's spokesman said he would not be going, saying Queensland needed ''action, not more political talk''.
Mr Palmer said he was business' most vocal critic of the government and: ''To have the most critical viewpoint not there shows the government is not serious. All sorts of views should be considered,'' he said. ''Unfortunately the forum will be a predetermined meeting like they had in Stalin's Russia,'' he told The Age.
The forum, opening with a dinner address by Ms Gillard, brings together 130 business, union and community leaders. Mr Palmer said his business was the largest private employer in north Queensland and the largest employer on the Sunshine Coast, and also has a substantial number of employees in Brisbane.
He and Gina Rinehart have been constantly targeted by the government as ''billionaire miners'' who use their money to seek excessive influence.
Several major mining companies have been invited, including Santos, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton.
Rio Tinto's managing director, Australia, David Peever, is expected to highlight the high cost of doing business in Australia, the need for productivity improvements and for Australia to be internationally competitive, and the importance of fiscal certainty.
He said the forum would be ''a good platform to discuss key issues facing Australia'', but added that ''talk is good, but positive outcomes are better. Ultimately it is the actions which follow the discussions which will determine its success."
The Australian Industry Group's chief executive, Innes Willox, who will give a presentation on skills, will urge that much more effort should be put into teaching Asian languages in schools, with the government properly resourcing this in the long term. He will point out that there are more students learning Latin in year 12 across Australia than there are non-Chinese-speaking students studying Mandarin.
Mr Willox said yesterday bipartisanship was needed on improving Australia's skills base.
Ted Baillieu is the only conservative premier attending the forum. His spokeswoman said he would be discussing ''opportunities to achieve greater support for infrastructure and reining in escalating construction costs''.
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