Clive defends Qld Nickel’s record in letter to Turnbull
FAIRFAX MP Clive Palmer has defended his running of Queensland Nickel and the company's donations to the Palmer United Party in a letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
In the letter, Mr Palmer takes a swipe at a lack of support for the company from banks and the Australian government, saying Queensland Nickel had, as of September last year, an expected surplus of $73m and a net asset base of $1.95b "and no substantial debt".
"There has been substantial comment by your ministers that raised the question whether a private family-owned company, which is certified as being fully solvent, has the right to donate funds to the political party of its choosing," Mr Palmer writes.
"As you should be aware, in the years prior to 2013, the political party which you lead, was the beneficiary of substantial donations from Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd. I have heard no such criticism in respect to those donations."
Mr Palmer blames Queensland Nickel's woes on a combination of low metals prices with the the unwillingness of banks to extend credit and of the Australian Government to offer the same kind of support offered by the Chinese and Canadian governments to their metals industries for the companies troubles.
He praises the company and its management for keeping the company afloat despite a steady fall in the world price of nickel from $7 per pound in 2009, when BHP Billiton decided to close the plant "and devastate the North Queensland economy" to $3.80 per pound today.
He says the company's financial position in September, which he says was confirmed by the company's auditors Ernst & Young, meant "it would be reasonable to assume that a banking institution would have funded a small amount of debt on the balance sheet".
"For reasons best known to the Treasurer, they failed to do so," he writes.
Mr Palmer defends the sacking of 237 staff at the Queensland Nickel, saying those job losses preserved the jobs of 550 workers remaining at the plant and 1600 workers dependent on refinery operations in Townsville.
He says the sacked workers were released with two weeks' pay each "pending final calculation of their entitlements with the Fair Work Act".
However, he says the administrator appointed to run the company decided those entitlements would instead be subject to a "deed of arrangement".
"Neither the shareholders nor the management had any decision making powers over such mattters and it is therefore very unreasonable for there to be any attack politically on the management of the company pending the outcome of the administrators' report".
Mr Palmer closes his letter by repeating his statement that he is no longer directly involved in the running of Queensland Nickel.
"As you are aware, as I have publicly stated at the time following my election to the federal parliament, I have retired from business," he writes. "I am concerned with the decline of jobs in the country and the systematic failure of the Australian and State Governments to seriously address industrial policy in this country".