Australian mining billionaire Clive Palmer said Monday he hopes to run against Treasurer Wayne Swan in national elections, escalating a fiery war-of-words between the government and the outspoken mogul.
Palmer, a leading critic of the centre-left Labor government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, said he would enter politics to challenge Swan in his Queensland seat of Lilley in polls due next year.
"I intend to put to the test to the people of this country my views against the treasurer in his home seat of Lilley," Palmer told reporters.
"He has been the sitting member for far too long. It's about time we get this country moving again."
Swan has in recent weeks rounded on Palmer and fellow mining heavyweights Gina Rinehart and Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest, blaming "vested interests" of the rich for threatening Australian democracy.
"He has claimed that because of my loud opposition to his party's ill-conceived carbon tax, I am a threat to democracy," Palmer said.
"Well, I believe I am demonstrating exactly what democracy is meant to be about... fighting for what I believe in and freedom of speech.
"All going well I look forward to giving Mr Swan a harsh lesson in democracy on polling day."
Palmer said he will seek pre-selection to run against Swan as a candidate for the conservative Liberal National Party (LNP).
In 1984 he missed out on pre-selection for the seat of Fisher, but denied his latest announcement, which came on the same day he unveiled plans to build a 21st century version of the doomed Titanic in China, was a stunt.
"I have done this because the treasurer and myself both have clear different visions of where this country should go," Palmer said.
Swan said he would be thrilled to take on Palmer in a seat he holds with margin of 3.2 percent.
"I relish the prospect of that contest," Swan told reporters.
The treasurer said Palmer and others opposed to the government's mining tax, designed to conserve some of the wealth generated by mining, were fighting "tooth and nail" to stop Australians sharing in the benefits of the boom.
The LNP last month scored a landslide win in Queensland state elections, unceremoniously dumping Labor Premier Anna Bligh in a vote which Palmer said was an indication of feelings nationwide about the ruling party.
He called on the unpopular Gillard, who leads a fragile coalition government, to call an early election. But he said he had no intention of wanting to become prime minister himself.
"I am happy to be a cog in the machine, just going along, doing what I can do to make the country better because we are all Australians whether we are billionaires, millionaires, whether we live in a very poor circumstance or not," he said.
Palmer, who has commissioned a state-owned Chinese company to construct Titanic II, said the new ship "will be every bit as luxurious as the original", replete with 840 rooms and nine decks.
But unlike its ill-fated predecessor, Titanic II will be equipped with "state-of-the-art 21st century technology and the latest navigation and safety systems".