Billionaire Palmer wins recount to be Australian MP

SYDNEY - Flamboyant mining tycoon Clive Palmer was elected to Australia's parliament on Thursday after he won a marathon recount for a seat in his home state of Queensland, reports said.

The billionaire, famous for building a full-scale replica of the Titanic, clinched the seat of Fairfax on the Sunshine Coast with a final margin of just 53 votes, seven weeks after national elections on September 7.

He initially beat Liberal National Party candidate Ted O'Brien by only seven votes after a deep-pocketed populist campaign for his self-titled Palmer United Party. Under Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) rules the small margin triggered an automatic recount.

"I'm looking forward to making a positive contribution to the battle of ideas in Canberra," Palmer told reporters Thursday.

The result, carried by the Australian Associated Press, was to be officially declared on Friday.

On election night, Palmer said he was standing for parliament "because I can serve the Australian people and provide more ideas on where this nation should go".

He will be the sole representative of his Palmer United Party in the lower house although it also won two Senate seats, with a third possible pending the outcome of another cliff-hanger recount that was complicated Thursday when it was revealed that 1,375 ballots had gone missing.

Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty was called in to conduct an independent inquiry after the AEC said that 1,375 votes that had been verified during the initial Senate count in Western Australia could no longer be "located".

Palmer has already brokered a crucial alliance with the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party to form a bloc that will be key to passing legislation that Tony Abbott's conservative coalition wants to push through the upper house.