Palmer squeezes back into refinery driver’s seat

In a move long awaited by many, Clive Palmer taken responsibility for his business interests and swooped in to save the day for the Yabulu Refinery.

After months of insisting that both the Queensland and federal governments support his ailing business, which was used to donate millions to his Palmer United political party, Palmer has finally bitten the bullet and fronted $23 million in funding to keep the Yabulu nickel refinery from being closed down.

However, the new conditional fund facility has been introduced through a new company called Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd, which will replace Queensland Nickel as manager of the Yabulu Refinery.

According to appointed voluntary administrators FTI Consulting, the decision to replace Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd as joint venture manager was determined by Clive Mensink as Director of QNI Resources Pty Ltd and QNI Metals Pty Ltd.

The Yabulu Refinery was owned by a joint venture between Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd, QNI Resources Pty Ltd and QNI Metals Pty Ltd, however the managing company has been pushed out, along with its debts to creditors, in favour of the newly interoduced Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd.

The Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd Australian Business Number has been active with the Australian Business register since late 1999.

The bombastic MP will head the new joint venture, which has immediately replaced Queensland Nickel as manager of Yabulu and the associated port facilities in Townsville.

 “The actions of Clive Palmer, Clive Mensink, and their related entities are beyond the control of the Administrators,” a statement from FTI Consulting read.

“It is understood the conditional funding facility will be secured against assets outside of Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd which were not available to the Administrators in the discharge of their duties as manager of the Yabulu Refinery.”

Until the announcement of Monday afternoon, FTI had made plans to put the Yabulu refinery into care and administration, threatening more than 500 jobs.

FTI Consulting said that although it will continue to act as the voluntary administrators of Queensland Nickel, it will no longer have any operational or managerial control of the Yabulu Refinery.

Already 237 Yabulu refinery workers were laid off in January, which Mensink and Palmer said was regrettable but necessary because the Queensland Government had refused to put up a $10 million guarantee for the company.

Palmer said he had been working for weeks to secure funding for the troubled Townsville operation, and took the opportunity to air his sour grapes about the Queensland government and their apparent refusal to provide financial support for Queensland Nickel.

“I have been harshly vilified with false allegations in respect of this matter. The Queensland government and the Treasurer Curtis Pitt have done nothing to protect the livelihoods of the people of north Queensland.

“While we have fought hard to keep the Yabulu Refinery operating we have seen the Palaszczuk government sitting on its hands while 22,000 jobs have been lost in the Queensland resources industry over the past 12 months,” he said.

Queensland premier Anastacia Palaszczuk said in January that the state government had offered to help Palmer, but he had not been “transparent” about his dealings with the company.

"The Government has done everything they possibly can with Queensland Nickel," she said.

"Unfortunately, Queensland Nickel was not prepared to open their books and be transparent to the Queensland Government.”

Palmer said the new enterprise will take on existing Queensland Nickel staff on the same terms and conditions of employment however no statement has been made as to whether or not the 237 retrenched workers will be offered employment.

A spokesperson for FTI Consulting confirmed that retrenched workers are considered creditors of Queensland Nickel, but the amount they are owed could not be stated.

Although FTI Consulting has not made public the full amount owed by Queensland Nickel to creditors, it is understood the sum stands at around $100 million.

FTI will provide a recommendation to creditors through a report which will be released on or prior to April 15 this year.


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