Mining magnate and MP Clive Palmer is trying to "buy seats" in federal Parliament and West Australians are not dumb enough to fall for it, says Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
It has been Mr Abbott's strongest attack so far on the wealthy businessman, who is believed to be dramatically outspending the major parties on advertising leading into this weekend's re-run of the West Australian Senate election.
"The people of Western Australia are smart, savvy people and I don't believe that they are going to allow themselves to be bought," said Mr Abbott, who has been campaigning in Perth.
"I don't believe that the people of Western Australia are going to put seats in the national parliament up for sale, which is effectively what someone is trying to do.
"[Mr Palmer] is out there trying to buy seats in the Parliament and that's something that I don't think the people of Western Australia will fall for."
Asked what he thought about the Prime Minister's comments, Mr Palmer said on Wednesday he considered them "unreasonable", especially given the Coalition outspent the Palmer United Party in the 2013 election and given the amount of money Mr Palmer had donated to the Liberal National Party over the years.
"I was the biggest benefactor and donor to the Liberal National Party prior to leaving it," Mr Palmer said on Wednesday.
"I have attended many fundraising dinners. I have written the biggest cheques in Australia.
"In the context of all that it's fairly unreasonable for [Mr Abbott] to be making the comments he's making."
Labor warned the decision to ''unleash the dogs'' on Mr Palmer could backfire if his Palmer United Party is successful in securing a third Senate seat.
"I suspect they will rue the day they did that because come July 1, they will be in bed with Clive Palmer," Labor MP Jason Clare told Sky News on Wednesday. "I think Tony Abbott’s judgment in attacking Clive Palmer is probably a bad mistake on his part and he will live to regret that."
Mr Palmer, the federal MP for the Queensland seat of Fairfax and leader of the Palmer United Party, already has two senators-elect – Glenn Lazarus for Queensland and Jacqui Lambie for Tasmania – who will take their seats when the new federal Senate convenes on July 1.
But Mr Palmer has larger goals. He wants to control the balance of power, which would force the Abbott government to bargain with him to pass legislation blocked by Labor and the Greens. This includes the repeals of the carbon and mining taxes, which are crucial to Mr Abbott's agenda.
Having already struck a deal with Victorian senator-elect Ricky Muir, from the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, Mr Palmer's party will effectively control at least three Senate seats, and possibly four if the WA Senate election goes his way.
The Palmer United Party's WA Senate candidate, Dio Wang, won a seat in the first count of the 2013 election, but lost it in the recount. The High Court voided the WA result after the Australian Electoral Commission admitted losing more than 1300 votes.
The story Tony Abbott accuses Clive Palmer of trying to buy seats first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.