Sacked workers and other creditors of Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel will gather in Townsville on Friday to decide if the company should be wound up.
Administrators say about $200 million is owed to creditors and liquidation gives them the best chance of seeing some of their money.
But the company’s sole director Clive Mensink – who is Mr Palmer’s nephew – has said they “probably” won’t get paid, due to a complex corporate structure that allows Mr Palmer to legally sidestep the company’s debts.
At best, they’ve been told the best they could hope to receive is 52 cents in the dollar on what they’re owed, though the federal government has promised to cover the entitlements of the refinery’s 787 axed workers through its Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme.
In the meantime, the government is pressing ahead with efforts to ensure taxpayers won’t be left to foot what it says is very clearly Mr Palmer’s entitlements bill.
It’s seeking the appointment of a special-purpose liquidator to target assets held by the Fairfax MP and his companies, in the hope it can recover money paid out under the scheme.
One former worker, who is owed more than $100,000 after a decade working at the Townsville refinery, says his former colleagues realise liquidation is the only viable option.
He says they’re happy too that the government is going after Mr Palmer.
“The workers want him to be held accountable,” the worker, who doesn’t want to be named, told AAP.
In a report last week, Queensland Nickel’s administrators FTI Consulting said there was evidence of gross, and possibly criminal, mismanagement by Mr Palmer and the company’s sole appointed director, his nephew Clive Mensink.
It said Mr Palmer appeared to have used the company as a piggy bank to fund his other business and political interests, and there was evidence the company had been trading while insolvent last year.
FTI also said there was evidence the MP and businessman had acted as a shadow director, something that if proven goes to the issue of his personal liability for any debts arising from insolvent trading.
Mr Palmer denies being a shadow director and says that at no time did he or any of his associated companies take money “beneficially owned by Queensland Nickel for any purpose”.
He has commissioned PriceWaterhouseCoopers to test FTI’s claims Queensland Nickel may have been trading while insolvent.
A capacity crowd is expected at Friday’s meeting at Townsville’s Ville Resort Casino, where the vote on liquidation is scheduled for 11am (AEST).