CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Mining magnate Clive Palmer, one of Australia's richest business people, said Monday he hoped to run for Parliament for the conservative opposition, which opinion polls suggest will win government next year.
Palmer said he would seek the Liberal National Party's candidacy for the electoral district held by Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan since 1998.
BRW magazine reported Palmer was Australia's fifth richest person last year with an estimated fortune of more than 5 billion Australian dollars ($5.2 billion), and he is the Queensland state-based party's largest donor.
"Politics is about ideas," the 58-year-old told reporters. "You are not going to become rich being a politician."
Palmer is a vocal opponent of new taxes on carbon gas emissions and on coal and iron ore mining profits that take effect on July 1. The center-left Labor Party passed the taxes through the Parliament without the support of the opposition.
Swan said Palmer's aspiration showed that the conservative opposition was "a wholly owned subsidiary of Mr. Palmer."
He warned that big business was already having too much influence on public policy debate.
"I don't want to see this country go down the American road where in recent decades the middle class has shrunk and big money in politics has dominated the political debate," Swan told reporters.
"I have a vision for this country where there is a very broad middle class, where people who work hard get fairly rewarded, where there is an optimism that comes with social mobility — that has disappeared in many other Western countries," he added, without naming those countries.
Opinion polls suggest Swan could lose his district in the state capital Brisbane with Labor's popularity falling in the coal mining state of Queensland since the last election in 2010. The election is due late next year.
But Swan said he did not fear being ousted by Palmer.
"I relish the prospect of that contest," Swan said.
Labor has been trailing the conservatives throughout Australia since Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year reneged on a promise by introducing a carbon tax. Australia's largest polluters will pay AU$23 per metric ton of carbon gas that they emit.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said was surprised by Palmer's bid for political career. The Liberal Party leader, Abbott said whether Palmer becomes a Liberal National Party candidate was a question for that party's officials.
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