Australian billionaire Clive Palmer in Senate deal

Australian mining billionaire and leader of the Palmer United Party (PUP) Clive Palmer (L) speaks as Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party (Amep) senator Ricky Muir (R) listens
Image caption The party of Mr Palmer, left, formed an alliance with Mr Muir's party, right

Billionaire Clive Palmer has struck a deal to form a bloc that will be key to passing laws in Australia's Senate.

His Palmer United Party (PUP), which won three Senate seats in the 7 September polls, says it will work with the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party's (Amep) sole senator.

The alliance of four senators will have a crucial vote on proposed legislation.

PM Tony Abbott's coalition needs at least six minority votes to pass laws, including two from Mr Palmer's group.

Mr Abbott, who ousted Kevin Rudd in the general election, has a comfortable lower house majority but is short in the Senate. The new senators take their seats in July 2014.

Mining billionaire Mr Palmer is famous for his attempt to build a new version of the Titanic, based on the original designs, as well as a replica dinosaur park in Australia.

He sealed the deal with senator-elect Ricky Muir, whose Amep party seeks to promote "four-wheel driving, camping, fishing", and the right to modify vehicles as a freedom of expression.

"We're one team of people working together because we've got common policies," Mr Palmer said in Sydney.

He said that Mr Abbott's senate chief, Eric Abetz, would "have to negotiate with our team or he won't be negotiating at all".

Mr Abbott, who was sworn into office on 18 September, has said he is confident that minor parties would support "a clear mandate to get things done".

Mr Palmer himself stood for a seat in the lower house in the general elections. A recount is now underway for the seat he is contesting, after an initial tally that was too close to call.

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