As far as I know Clive Palmer’s two main cash producing assets were Queensland Nickel and the Coolum Resort, known now mainly for the fibreglass dinosaurs he installed all over the place. Coolum is presently shut, and Queensland Nickel has gone into receivership. Terry Barnes thinks “Palmer and his political influence are going the way of the fibreglass dinosaurs inhabiting his defunct resort at Coolum.”
Recently 237 of the 800 workers were shown the door, and there may be no funds available to pay their entitlements. An astonishing factor is that in recent years QNI has donated $22 million to the Palmer United Party, $290,000 on December 31, 2015 when plans must have been afoot for the sackings. The receiver may be able to chase these payments, but two of Palmer’s other companies were also established as prime creditors, at the head of the queue.
The Conversation has a piece outlining the history of the refinery. Originally it was built to process ore mined nearby at Greenvale, but for a long time now it has depended on imported ore, much of it from the West Pacific.
Because QNI is a private company we don’t get to see its books, but The Conversation authors say it is now old technology and bound to be expensive. Nickel prices experience strong booms and busts.
The Queensland Government were never asked for money, rather to guarantee a loan of $35 million. There is talk of the nickel price improving by mid-year, so the refinery may survive. Nevertheless, it’s hard for governments to help someone so politically involved, especially one who seems to be given to changing his story quite frequently. Moreover in Australia we tend not to help private companies over bumps in the road.
Meanwhile Government seems to be anxious to increase infrastructure works in the Townsville area. People are asking why the effort and anxiety for Townsville when 20,000 jobs have been ripped out of Central Queensland mining area?
There is also a small matter of cleaning up the site if QNI goes bust, which could cost the government $35 million.