Mike Willesee responds to criticism over Muir interview

Mike Willesee for The Australian
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The Palmer United Party has three members who will be senators on July 1 and, in an alliance with an Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party member, will control the Senate in most disputes.

Why Boston? Because Palmer, has an infatuation with John F. Kennedy and has donated millions to the JFK library. So we flew to Boston to spend time with the man behind the painted face; the man who in times of crisis will wield more power than the Prime Minister and the government we have elected. I had some serious questions: Who is Palmer and what does his novice Senate team stand for?

Palmer was a no-show. Where was he? Spokesman Andrew Crook assured me he was in transit in his private jet. The following morning at breakfast the beleaguered PR man said he simply was not coming. The excuses started: his radar had failed, he had to meet the Prime Minister, his toilet was not working. When I met him at his Coolum resort on the Sunshine Coast, the deceit would become full-blown.

In the meantime I met the four senators-elect who would soon wield so much power.

Football legend Glenn Lazarus, who, I was told, had been on the Palmer payroll for one year; his policy vision was extremely limited but he seemed willing to learn. Dio Wang, who runs Palmer’s Mineralogy mining company, seems very much the smartest but says he has never had to stand up to Palmer because "he is always right". Jacqui Lambie, who was a corporal in the army but has suffered illness for 10 years. Ricky Muir, who works in a timber mill and had enormous difficulty answering questions.

I have been criticised for exposing him to a television camera, but in editing he was comparatively protected.

My first question to him was what he wanted to achieve for motorists in the Senate. He told me he wanted to be able to customise his car. When asked how the Senate could help him do that he whispered that he could not answer the question.

It was a most unproductive and disappointing experience. This team is not ready and at this stage is relying totally on the directions of Palmer.

Now back to the man behind the painted face. Palmer plays the clown often. When I met him at Coolum he finally conceded he never meant to go to Boston. He now complains I edited his interview unfairly. His PR man Crook texted my producer Mick O’Donnell after the show on Sunday night:

"Thanks Mick very fair. PS I thought Mike was very good."

Of his various conflicts and litigation, Palmer gave me mainly conflicting accounts.

"I haven’t locked 300 unit owners out of Coolum, there might be a few. You should buy one, Mike, you’ll get a real good price."

And on and on.

As to the claim that we sneakily filmed his conversations with some of his team: we miked them up and placed them behind me so as to be in shot.

Muir: "You being recorded right now?"

Palmer: "Don’t have a problem … yeah, I’m being recorded."

Sneaky? Not possible.

My conclusion: behind the painted face I found more paint.

Palmer is entitled to call me names because I called him "mad" on radio. But I added "mad … but not crazy".

And "dangerous" because he is unpredictable and capricious and controls the balance of power in Australia.

Yes, there is something likable about his larrikin, "I’ll say whatever I want" attitude.

Why did I keep thinking about Joh Bjelke-Petersen?

Mike Willesee wrote this response for The Australian newspaper.