Clive Palmer's political project is disintegrating

Glenn Lazarus. Photo: Getty

The year is not going well for businessman-turned-politician Clive Palmer.

First his model dinosaur Jeff was burnt to a shell. Now his political party is falling apart.

Senator Glenn Lazarus, the former rugby league player known as “the brick with eyes” recruited by Palmer ahead of the 2013 election, has quit the Palmer United Party and will now sit in the Senate as an independent.

The PUP has issued a statement this morning explaining that a decision was taken to sack Lazarus’s wife, Tess, from her job in Lazarus’s office, “primarily because she failed to comply with the terms of her employment”.

“The party made the correct decision in terminating Tess Lazarus’ employment,” the party statement said. “It is disappointing that politicians put their personal interests ahead of those who elect them.”

Lazarus announced his decision to quit on Facebook in the early hours of this morning, taking a clear swipe at Palmer, whose influence is now hugely diminished. Here’s what he said:

This was a difficult decision.

I have a different view of team work. Given this, I felt it best that I resign from the party and pursue my Senate role as an independent Senator.

I am deeply grateful to Clive Palmer for the opportunity to be involved in the party.

I sincerely wish Clive and his family all the very best for the future.

I will miss working with my esteemed colleague Senator Dio Wang.

I am determined to do my best in representing, and being a voice for, the people of Queensland in the Australian Senate.

When the new Senate started sitting last year, Palmer was in a position to help the government pass legislation with his control of three PUP votes in the upper house, and a negotiated alliance with Motoring Enthusiast Party senator Ricky Muir.

Palmer helped the government repeal the mining tax and also cut a deal over the government’s changes to the Future of Financial Advice reforms. He was in a powerful negotiating position.

But it didn’t last. The Tasmanian Senator Jacqui Lambie quit to sit as an independent, while Ricky Muir’s loose alliance faded. With Lazarus pulling the pin, Palmer now only has the vote of a guy nobody has ever heard of in Dio Wang.

In a powerful illustration of just how the unravelling of the PUP affects the nation’s laws, Lambie sided with the opposition and other crossbenchers to unwind the previous financial advice changes she had helped push through under Palmer’s direction.

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