SYDNEY Australian mining mogul and politician Clive Palmer was rebuked by the government on Tuesday for a tirade against China, in which he described its government as "bastards" who shoot their own people and want to take over the country's resources.
Treasurer Joe Hockey said the remarks aired on Australian television on Monday were "hugely damaging", noting that Palmer had benefited personally from doing business with China.
"Do not bring down the rest of Australia because of your biases," he said. "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 for everyday Australians."
China is Australia's biggest trade partner with two-way trade approaching $150 billion, representing more than 20 percent of Australia's total trade.
Palmer, who holds the balance of power in the Australian parliament's upper house, is currently locked in a legal battle with Chinese firm CITIC Pacific over cost blowouts and disputed royalty payments at an iron ore port in Cape Preston in Western Australia.
When asked about the case while appearing on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's "Q&A" program, Palmer launched into an attack on what he called the "communist Chinese government" and its attempts to take over Australia’s ports.
"I don't mind standing up against the Chinese bastards and stopping them from doing it," Palmer said. "I'm saying that because they're communist, because they shoot their own people, they haven't got a justice system and they want to take over this country. We're not going to let them do it."
Palmer tweeted a clarification to his comments on Tuesday: "My #qanda comments not intended to refer to Chinese people but to Chinese company which is taking Australian resources & not paying."
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she planned to contact the Chinese embassy to stress that the Australian parliament does not share Palmer's "abusive" views.
"It really isn't appropriate for him to use a national television program to vent his bitterness about a legal dispute he is having with a Chinese company," Bishop told Fairfax radio.
China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment sought by Reuters.
Palmer has been a thorn in the side of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's government since Palmer United Party won three seats in Australia's senate at last September’s elections.
After holding the new senate hostage over the repeal of Australia's controversial carbon tax for weeks as he haggled for concessions, he has now vowed to block the budget in its current form.
(Reporting by Jane Wardell in Sydney and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Nick Macfie)