ELEANOR HALL: The Treasurer and the Foreign Minister have slapped
down the head of the Palmer United Party over his outburst about
Clive Palmer referred to "Chinese mongrels" on the ABC's Q&A program last night. He has since tweeted that he didn't mean the Chinese people, but a Chinese businessman he's battling in the courts.
But the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she will contact the Chinese embassy to respond, calling the comments offensive and unacceptable.
And the clash is unlikely to smooth negotiations for the Treasurer as he continues to try to win support for his budget from Palmer United Party senators.
Political correspondent Louise Yaxley.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: Mr Palmer's told the ABC's Q&A program last night the Chinese Government wants to bring workers to Australia to destroy the wage system.
CLIVE PALMER: They want to take over our ports and get our resources for free. So far, they've shifted $200 million worth of iron ore out of this country without paying for it.
TONY JONES: OK?
CLIVE PALMER: And I don't mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stop them from doing it.
We'll be suing them and they'll be answering the question. We've had three judgements in the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Western Australia and arbitration against these Chinese mongrels.
I'm saying that because they're communists, because they shoot their own people; they haven't got a justice system and they want to take over this country, and we're not going to let them do it.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: This morning, Mr Palmer's tweeted that he wasn't referring to Chinese people, but to a Chinese company he's battling in the courts.
The Treasurer Joe Hockey says it is hugely damaging.
JOE HOCKEY: I'd say to Mr Palmer, please do not bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases.
They are a business partner for Australia, they're our biggest trading partner, they buy a lot of our produce, and in doing so, they help to lift the quality of life of everyday Australians.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: Speaking on Fairfax Radio, the Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has condemned Mr Palmer's remarks.
JULIE BISHOP: Mr Palmer's comments are offensive, they are unnecessary, and it's unacceptable for a member of Parliament to make such comments, particularly on a national television program.
I think he's using his position to demean the Chinese people because he's in a legal dispute with a Chinese company.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: She says China has a right to be offended
JULIE BISHOP: It is abusive and unnecessary language, and Mr Palmer is in the middle of a bitter legal dispute with a Chinese company, and I don't think he should use his public position as a member of Parliament to insult one of our major strategic and trading partners.
Hopefully China will ignore it, but I'll contact the Chinese embassy to point out that these views are not representative of the Australian Parliament and I don't believe representative of the Australian people.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Jocye says Mr Palmer's comments are damaging to Australia's reputation and he says China is a crucial trading partner.
BARNABY JOYCE: We know that business is always going to be tough, that negotiations are always going to be tough, that's the way the world is. We accept that and we respect that.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: The row comes as the Government tries to negotiate with senators on key budget measures.
BARNABY JOYCE: We've got the Palmer United Palmer, we've got the Motoring Enthusiasts Party, still we've got Nick Xenophon and Mr Madigan from the DLP (Democratic Labour Party), and they're all good people, I think.
But, you know, if we give everybody what they want, then what we actually have as a package is chaos and that just doesn't work.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: As well as the budget measures, the Government's trying to convince the Senate to agree to scrap the mining tax without insisting on the associated spending measures.
Mr Joyce sounds unsure if that will happen when Parliament resumes.
BARNABY JOYCE: It's in the lap of the Gods, Virginia, and, you know, obviously Mr Palmer and his senators, but really they're not his senators, they're senators for their respective state.
Jacquie Lambie is a senator for Tasmania. Dio Wang is a senator for Western Australia and, you know, Glenn Lazarus as a senator for Queensland, they all have a responsibility to their state; that is their constituency; that is their actual boss is their state, and it's what their states want.
VIRGINIA TRIOLI: Sounds like you're trying to split them off from their leader.
BARNABY JOYCE: Ah, no, I'm trying to make sure that we don't have a chaotic situation because the Australian people deserve better than financial chaos and that's what we don't what, but that's where we'll head to if we don't get some semblance of sanity in this process.
LOUISEY YAXLEY: The Treasurer Joe Hockey has been talking to senate crossbenchers, but he won't give any details of what's up for negotiation.
And Palmer United Senator Jacqui Lambie is scathing about the Government's approach.
JACQUIE LAMBIE: They don't want to listen to what we have to say, so I guess when they're prepared to be big men and come to the table and want to negotiate correctly on this, and which way is the best way forward for the country, then I guess we'll come out with much better outcomes.
And it's like Christopher Pyne, you know, he can go and grab a box of Kleenex because all his education reforms are going down the gurgler, it's as simple as that.
ELEANOR HALL: And that's Palmer United Senator Jacquie Lambie, ending that report from Louise Yaxley.