Ross Greenwood speaks to Clive Palmer who says his defamation lawsuit against the Prime Minister and Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash have been dropped. Palmer says he’s now planning to reopen his Yabulu refinery in Townsville, and is calling on the help of the PM and Senator Cash.
Introduction: Why has Clive Palmer dropped his defamation suit against the PM?
Ross Greenwood: Elsewhere, an olive branch that’s been thrown out today. Now, this is an interesting olive branch because, as you’re well aware, Clive Palmer has been in the news, he’s been in the courts, he’s been everywhere, since the closure of the Yabulu nickel refinery in Townsville. Clive Palmer last Friday was in Townsville. Clive Palmer also has got a comeback into politics through the United Australia Party.
Some time ago Clive Palmer also launched defamation proceedings against both Michaelia Cash, the employment Minister plus also the Prime Minister. Clive Palmer is now saying that he wants to reopen the Townsville smelter. On top of that, he wants to somehow cast out a hand towards the Prime Minister and the Employment Minister to try and help get that refinery reopened. Clive Palmer is on the line right now, Many thanks for your time, Clive.
Interview with: Clive Palmer, Businessman and former Politician,
Clive Palmer: Hi, fine always good to hear from you.
Ross Greenwood: How was your reception in Townsville last Friday?”
Clive Palmer: That was very good. We had a poll about a week before that said that 70% of people in Townsville supported me. It’s not surprising considering what has come out of that court case which is carrying the facts that the administrator refused to accept cash to pay up the creditors and to keep everybody working. That was a testimony that one of the liquidators gave in the Supreme Court.
Ross Greenwood: Given the mood in Townsville, Clive, given what happened over the period of time. Were you at all nervous going back in front of all those people in Townsville?
Clive Palmer: Well, I think in reality, whatever the situation is, a person should confront the people and answer any questions they’ve got and be available. That’s your responsibility really as a person. I thought it was good the fact that one of the liquidators had gone on record, said that the reason that the thing closed was because they wouldn’t accept their cash to pay up the creditors. They were looking more for that $10 million of liquidator fees and with the banking inquiry, that’s one of the things we have to worry about in Australia where liquidators and receivers don’t act for the benefit of creditors. They act for there own pockets.
Ross Greenwood: I noticed also today that the special purpose liquidators today have said that they welcome the possible reopening of the refinery as reiterated by you and that they say that most if not, all former staff of the refinery are still owed entitlements, any move to recommence operations can still support the employment of affected workers in the Townsville areas and that’s a positive development. In regards to those entitlements, who should be paying it?
Clive Palmer: Well, first of all, there’s two there’s two liquidators. There’s the special purpose liquidator and there’s the general-purpose liquidator who was the administrator. He’s the one that refused to transfer the workers and one of his associates acknowledged in court, that if they accepted the money from us at the time and transferred the workers, the business would have continued. There would have been no entitlements at all because everyone would have had a job. He has given evidence to say that the reason it closed down was because they, the administrators independently, decided to sack the workers. When they were asked by the Commonwealth government, “Had anyone offered to pay the creditors? Had anyone offered to continue the workforce employment?” They gave the answer. “No.” Not him, the one that gave the testimony, but the other administrator said to the commonwealth, “No, no one had.” They lied in effect to the Commonwealth. That was a big revelation, and of course, we don’t want administrators or liquidators to act that way. We’ve got 556 people who have registered for jobs or previously worked at the refinery. We’ve got a strong commitment to those people to see that they get employed, they have a better lifestyle. The refinery is very important for North Queensland because 3,000 people were employed there. Whatever you want to say about the past, we’ve got to look to the future. It’s $6 billion asset, should be reopened and it would be very financially economic if it was at the moment.
Ross Greenwood: A few other bits and pieces that may not know that there’s been the issue in regards to the freezing and $500 million of your personal and business assets. Is that causing you any distress at this stage?
Clive Palmer: That’s like being hit by a pen of rocks. I’ve got about $3 or $4 billion of assets in Australia. Freezing order doesn’t actually stop you dealing with any assets. Its just requires you to maintain that you will always remain at that amount of money within Australia. For the last ten years, I’m Australian. I live here, I live in this country. I’ve got no intention of not having at least that much money available at any one time.
Ross Greenwood: From that point of view, having those assets frozen is not such a big issue for you, but you’ve been fighting tooth and nail to try and have that freeze lifted. I would have thought.
Clive Palmer: Well, we’ve appealed against the decision and it’s appeal. It’s a ridiculous thing we did to the wealthiest person in Queensland, that they’re having their assets frozen that’s part of the hysteria that we had to live with. Clive Palmer not important to this issue and no individual is. We need to think of broader and try to get everyone employed out there and over the $600 million worth of exports going from Australia. The economic activity is more important. I had one small girl up there couldn’t pay her swimming fees because her dad didn’t have a job. That concerns me and I’ve got the ability and the funds to reopen it and it would be economically viable at the moment so why don’t we do it?
Ross Greenwood: Given the state of the refinery itself, It’s been in mothballs, but some say that the actual state of the refinery after being closed for such a long time would be pretty poor what sort of money do you imagine might be needed to reopen the nickel refinery?
Clive Palmer: Well, first of all, we’ve already set 40 staff there doing the operational maintenance so it isn’t in poor condition from that point of view, but nevertheless you’d be looking around about $50 to $75 billion that’s required to bring it up to operations immediately. We’ll be happy to put that money in.
Ross Greenwood: Do you think one of the real issues in regards to this is the look of your nephew who was running the refinery Clive Mensink having been overseas for such a long period of time. Having had warrants out for him to return to Australia, but having not come back to Australia really he’s not able to be forced to come back to Australia either to answer the questions, the questions that you know, need to be asked about the closure of the refinery and what had taken place there. Do you think that’s a part of the issue that you also struggle in regards to public image?
Clive Palmer: Well, it could be a relation to the perception how the person is dealt with, but in reality is not an issue because the truth and the questions that need to be answered were all answered in the Supreme Court of Queensland by the liquidator who went on oath and explained why it closed that it was there was their decision to sack the workers. It was their decision not to tell the Commonwealth liquidator they’ve been offered the full payment.
I mean administrators job is to get money for creditors when some along and says, “Here’s a cheque, I’ll pay all the debts.” They shouldn’t have the ability not to attack it, you know, and Mr. Mensink is a hero, there’s no doubt about that. In 2009, BHP was getting closed with the cost of production was $8.50. In 2016 he had brought it down to $4.40. He kept all of North Queensland going for seven years, no one talked about that. In the final analysis, he offered the cash money to the to the administrators to save the jobs of the people, and they didn’t accept it.
Ross Greenwood: Do you think he will get a hero’s welcome if he came back to Australia now?
Clive Palmer: He certainly will if he went to Townsville. I think, after that after the truth came out people realizes what he’s done. Don’t forget, when we operate the refinery I gave away 55 Mercedes Benz the people in 2011, 1500 overseas trips for families that worked there that their lives could be better. I paid everyone 25% above the Australian award and I was busted that year on the front page of the Australian in 2011. When things were good, we did all we could to help people. Whatever the issues are in the past we’ve got to deal with that. We’ve got a really aim for the future.
If you go into Townsville, you would see the Kennedy on the main street, there’s so many vacant shops and youth unemployment is very high. All those things have got the capacity to fix so let’s do it.
Ross Greenwood: The final one, the defamation actions against Malcolm Turnbull and also against Michaelia Cash. The fact that you’ve offered this olive branch to try and see if you can settle things up and maybe potentially get the Townsville refinery reopened. Does that include dropping those lawsuits against the Prime Minister and the employment relations Minister?
Clive Palmer: Well, they don’t exist they’ve been dropped already. I think the situation I mean business as a businessman to make money really a defamation action anyway gives you about $100,000, $200,000 of damages that’s not significant to the millions of dollars. we need to deploy out there to keep people employed. It’s a distraction it’s something good for the press to write about, but it’s not high on my agenda.
Ross Greenwood: I’ll tell you what, always good to have a chat with you Clive and it’s going to be interesting to see exactly how this pans out. If the jobs can be created in Townsville, if that refinery can be reopened clearly that is a positive outcome for them. Clive, we appreciate your time in the program this evening.
Clive Palmer: God bless you. God bless Australia. Make Australia great [chuckles], see you.
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