Ross Greenwood speaks to Member for Herbert in Townsville Cathy O’Toole who says “it would be like rubbing salt in the wounds of former workers”.
Introduction: How can Clive Palmer afford sports sponsorship, billboards but not pay QN workers?
Ross Greenwood: Great to have your company here on Money News right around Australia. This afternoon, there’s a bit of breaking news in regards to Clive Palmer, Queensland Nickel, the Townsville nickel refinery, the collapse that lost more than 700 people their job, 550 of them when ultimately, the liquidators were appointed. As you know, this has been going through the Federal Court back and forth for quite some time.
One of the sticking points in all of this has been the Clive Palmer’s nephew, Clive Mensink, has basically disappeared overseas. He left in June 2016. Now, Mensink ran the nickel refinery. The allegation of the liquidator is that he effectively was running it with really Clive Palmer because Clive Palmer had the money. He wasn’t allowed to run the Townsville nickel refinery while he was in the federal parliament, but he was doing so anyway.
After the collapse, they tried to allege now that Clive Palmer acted as a shadow director and he should pay. As you may also be aware right now, the Federal Court has sought to freeze Clive Palmer’s assets or at least some of them.
In this particular case, they’re seeking for some $200 million of assets where he will be restrained, and also another $340 million in company assets that is also affected. Today, a bit of breaking news, is that Clive Mensink has lost an appeal against two warrants issued to bring him to the Federal Court for questioning over the nickel refinery’s collapse. You might ask a good question, “How can a man, who has not been seen for two years, has not even communicated with his lawyers, how could he possibly have given any instructions to one who lost his appeal? Which is a very good question, never been answered of course.
There’s a second thing that’s also occurred. That is, that in the past 24 hours, Clive Palmer has decided that he wants to spend $100,000 in a sponsorship deal to help prop up North Queensland Football. He’s targeting sporting groups in Townsville to try in getting swayed again. I wonder what the Federal Member for Herbert, which covers Townsville thinks about these. Cathy O’Toole, she’s on the line right now. Hello, Cathy.
Interview with: Cathy O’Toole, Member for Herbert
Cathy O’Toole: Hi, Ross, how are you? Look, I think it’s outrageous. Clive is trying to do everything he possibly can to get the community on his side, except the one thing that he should do, and that’s pay those workers their entitlements.
Ross Greenwood: That’s the bottom line of all this, isn’t it? This is interesting because it comes from both sides of politics. Both sides agree that Clive Palmer should shell out the money because ultimately it was the Australian taxpayer that was left on the hook for $64 million of entitlements paid by the federal government to those 550 workers. This is not even a partisan thing. This is something where both sides of politics say, “Get on and pay the workers.”
Cathy O’Toole: That’s exactly right. The workers that haven’t been paid their full entitlements need to be paid 100%, and he needs to do that. Then, of course, the taxpayer money from the Fair Entitlements Guarantee has to be paid back as well.
Ross Greenwood: What do you think $100,000 local football club is going to do for people’s mood and attitude in Townsville?
Cathy O’Toole: It would be like rubbing salt into the wound of some former workers who are waiting and hoping that they will be paid their fair entitlement. This is really simple. If you owe people money, you need to pay it, particularly workers. They’ve worked in good faith with the expectation that their entitlements will be paid. That simply has not happened.
Ross Greenwood: In saying, he was trying to help out the community in Townsville in general, and there could be an announcement made this week. Again, just think if you’re one of those workers, who might also be a member of one of the local football clubs, I can’t imagine you’re going to be really made swayed by $100,000 when there could be $60 million owed.
Cathy O’Toole: That’s exactly right. People in our community have very long memory. They don’t forget easily when the devastation that was caused by the collapse of Queensland Nickel and the ripple that effect into our community. It wasn’t just the hundreds of people who lost their jobs there. We had small businesses. We had subcontractors. People like that also suffered really badly. If Clive wants to ingratiate himself into our community, it would be best advice to pay the former QNI workers their entitlement. That’s the best thing he could do.
Ross Greenwood: It’s going to be interesting to watch all of that. One of a small part about this, and I know this is now becoming more partisan, but your area, those small businesses that you talked about there. This whole issue about tax cuts. Given the fact that maybe your own side of politics and your leader is looking at where the tax cuts should land for small- and medium-sized businesses. This also becomes an issue in every electorate regardless of politics, again, because there’d be a lot of businesses in Townsville right now that would need a break if they make money.
Cathy O’Toole: Look, I think what’s happening in Townsville at the moment quite clearly, at this point in time, everybody that has been damaged by the fact that Clive Palmer won’t pay his workers their entitlement. The fact that he has let other small businesses dangling, this is all a big issue. The issue for the people of Townsville at the moment, clearly the front and center on their mind is, Clive has come in and said he is now got $3 billion, he’s one of the wealthiest men in our country. My question is: how does it happen that a man in that position can avoid paying his workers their entitlement? That’s the key issue for people in my community at the moment.
Ross Greenwood: How does that work out that a man who disappeared from Australia two years ago, who was running this particular nickel refinery on behalf of his uncle, who has clearly been his benefactor while overseas, how is it that he can’t be brought back to Australia, and how is it that ultimately he could sleep at night while you’re feeding him, while he does not appear before the court?
Cathy O’Toole: That’s exactly right. It’s an outrageous situation. What we need to do is we could– This is a really good example of where we need to ensure that situations of this nature never happen again because it was about 850 people who lost their job in Townsville. Those people and their families, some of them are still struggling. A number of them are waiting for their entitlement, and a number of those people have retired. For that $10,000 or $15,000 or more, $20,000 in some cases, that is really important to those people.
Ross Greenwood: There’s no doubt. Cathy O’Toole is a Federal Member for Herbert, which covers Townsville. Cathy, as always, great to have a chat.
Cathy O’Toole: Thank you very much, Ross.
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