Marmion staggered by Palmer comments

WESTERN Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion admitted the government was in damage control over comments made by federal MP Clive Palmer.

Kristie Batten

Appearing on the ABC’s Q & A program on Monday night, Palmer said the Chinese were “mongrels” who “shoot their own people”

"The Chinese government wants to bring workers here to destroy our wage system ... they want to take over our ports and get our resources for free,” he said.

“So far they've shifted $200 million worth of iron ore out of this country without paying for it. I don't mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it."

Palmer later clarified his rant on Twitter by saying he was not referring to “Chinese people but to Chinese company which is taking Australian resources and not paying”

But in the eyes of the WA government, the damage was done.

Marmion told a Morgans breakfast in Perth this morning that he was watching Q & A on Monday night and found the comments “shocking”

“I was staggered by the comments Clive Palmer made,” he said.

Marmion said the comments were “unhelpful” and put billions of Chinese investment in WA’s mining sector at risk.

“When they see a politician come out and make those comments … it’s mindboggling,” he said.

He noted that WA Premier Colin Barnett was in damage control and would be contacting the Chinese embassy.

“The premier is on the frontfoot – we’re not letting this sleep,” Marmion said.

“I’ll be doing the right thing and making sure it’s smoothed over.”

The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy released a statement yesterday to voice its concern over the potential of the comments to damage Australia’s reputation and impact future foreign investment.

BHP Billiton CEO Andrew Mackenzie told ABC Radio he wasn’t concerned by the comments.

“I believe that the strength of our company's relationships and the relationships that are enjoyed at government level – and also many other companies – which are warm, and there's a mutual regard for the quality of our product, the security of our supply, are the ones that are going to rank more highly, if you like, in the minds of the Chinese,” he said.