Real Life

FLASHBACK! Clive Palmer, 12, in The Weekly in 1967

The Weekly has unearthed a story featuring a young Clive Palmer, 'one of the most travelled 12-year-olds in Australia', and his brush with death, published in the magazine in 1967.
Clive Palmer's brush with death in The Weekly, 1967.

Clive Palmer (c) with his father George and his mother in The Weekly in 1967.

The story refers to the leader of the Palmer United Party as a “wanderer” who at the age of four climbed out of a cabin porthole in the Java Sea and sat on a 3 inch-wide ledge running along the ship’s side.

“Screams from women passengers sounded the alert. Two Chinese stewards were lowered over the ship’s rail.”

But in a style that bears some semblance of the future Queensland MP, the boy yelled at the stewards, “You keep away from me!”

In an interview with the Palmer family, Clive’s father George, a Gold Coast travel agent, says that his son planned to be a lawyer.

“He’ll have to settle down to schoolwork,” Mr Palmer said. “As education is most important for a boy.”

The story, which covers Clive’s schoolboy travels including his 33 trips across the equator, gives an insight to the controversial politician’s early life. Here is the report in full:

Gold Coast schoolboy Clive Palmer, 12, recently crossed the Equator for the 33rd time since he made his first trip overseas, at two weeks old.

Although he has been around the world three times, and has made 14 trips outside of Australia, he has a long way to go to catch up to his father, travel agent George Palmer, of Surfers Paradise, who has been taking parties of tourists around the world – which he has circled 39 times – for 37 years.

“Although Clive’s schooling has been broken by travel, he is still well up in his sixth grade,” said his father.

One of the highlights of the Palmer family’s tours was when they penetrated Red China in 1964.

“We travelled aboard a freighter which visited Red Chinese ports for two months,” Mr. Palmer said.

“We managed to get permission to land at Shanghai, Peking, and Darien, although we had no visas.”

Mr. Palmer filmed a 16mm. colour movie of the Great Wall of China, 300 miles inland. As there were no facilities for processing colour in China, he was allowed to bring the film back to Australia.

It is now part of his huge film library of more than 100 countries.

During the tour Clive and his parents gathered memories which will last a lifetime, including that of a guard at a barbed wire fence around one of the few Roman Catholic Churches allowed to remain open in 1964.

The Palmers’ married daughter, Jean, now 21, bravely asked the guard: “Is the fence to keep God in or out?”

The Palmer family’s most terrifying voyage occurred aboard a Dutch freighter in the millpond Java Sea, off Indonesia.

Clive was four and a wanderer. While his parents were asleep, he climbed out of the cabin porthole on to a 3in.-wide ledge running along the ship’s side.

Screams from women passengers sounded the alert. Two Chinese stewards were lowered over the ship’s rail.

As they closed in on Clive he yelled: “You keep away from me!”

“Leave him alone,” bellowed the Captain from the bridge, who had stopped the ship and swung out a lifeboat.

Meanwhile Mrs. Palmer, forcing calmness into her voice, said: “What are you doing out there, Clive?”

“I’m looking for fishies,” the four-year-old replied.

Finally Mrs. Palmer, managed to coax him to the porthole by saying: “Come here, love. There’s something I want to brush off your back.”

Quickly she grabbed him around the legs, and pulled him into safety.

That was the past. What of the future of one of the most travelled 12-year-olds in Australia, who wants to be a lawyer when he grows up?

“He’ll have to settle down to schoolwork, as education is most important for a boy.”

This story first appeared in The Weekly on March 1, 1967.

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