Clive Palmer, an Australian mining magnate and member of Parliament, has sparked a minor diplomatic incident after calling the Chinese leadership “mongrels” and “bastards” during a debate televised by the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday. “They’re communist, they shoot their own people, they haven’t got a justice system, and they’re trying to take over this country,” he said. “We’re not going to let them do it.”

Several prominent Australian leaders rushed to distance themselves from Palmer’s remarks, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called the Chinese embassy in Canberra to make clear Palmer does not speak for his country. Two of his allies in Parliament, however, stood by his comments, expressing concern over China’s undue risk to Australia’s economic sovereignty.

Jacquie Lambie, a senator from the Palmer United Party said: ‘‘If anybody thinks that we should have a national security and defense policy, which ignores the threat of a Chinese communist invasion -- you’re delusional and got rocks in your head.’’

Palmer himself did not back down from his remarks, but clarified he was referring to China's government, not its people. 

Palmer has had extensive business dealings with China, a country whose thirst for raw materials plays a significant part in spurring Australia's economic growth. As the founder of Mineralogy, a major mining company, Palmer sold iron ore mining rights to CITIC, a state-run Chinese firm, in 2006. But while the deal netted Palmer more than $400 million, his relationship with CITIC has soured. The Chinese company this year accused Palmer of siphoning off $12 million in funds to pay for his political campaigns, a charge Palmer denies.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported Palmer announced in 2010 he had brokered a $60 billion deal to sell coal to a Chinese firm controlled by Li Xiaoli, the daughter of former Premier Li Peng. Neither Li nor the Chinese government corroborated Palmer’s account, and to date no deal has been struck.

That incident did not sour Palmer’s willingness to deal with China, however. In 2013, he announced a deal to build a full-scale replica of the Titanic in the country, but has yet to sign a contract with the shipbuilding company.

China is Australia’s largest trading partner, and trade between the two totaled $181 billion in 2013.