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Jones to fly in as taxpayer bill looms at Queensland Nickel

Polarising radio figurehead Alan Jones is reportedly set to fly in to a meeting of workers at the embattled Queensland Nickel refinery in Townsville, as the Turnbull Government grapples with the possibility that it may have to foot a $70m bill in the likely event that the refinery closes.

A spokesperson for federal employment minister Michaelia Cash expressed the government’s annoyance at Queensland Nickel owner and federal member for Fairfax, Clive Palmer, for potentially sticking taxpayers with a hefty bill.

Under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee Scheme, the government may have to pay roughly $70m in worker entitlements if the refinery formally collapses and is unable to pay them.

“The moral and legal responsibility for the payment of entitlements of all Queensland Nickel workers lies with Mr Palmer, not the taxpayer,” an employment minister spokesperson  was quoted as saying by Fairfax.

“It is up to Clive Palmer and the management of Queensland Nickel Sales to urgently make arrangements to ensure that employees are not denied their lawful entitlements.”

Palmer has denied his personal responsibility, saying a company’s debts are its own.

Quoted in multiple sources, he reportedly said: “If it goes into liquidation that’s just what happens. Companies go into liquidation across the country every day … If there’s a debt to that company, it’s a company debt.”

The mining entrepreneur turned politician retook control from the failed Queensland Nickel business through a new vehicle last month, but subsequently mothballed the Townsville plant until at least July.

Now Queensland Nickel’s administrator, FTI Consulting, could be left with little choice but to recommend the operation be shuttered completely.

A meeting of workers is scheduled for next week, aimed at lobbying for help from the state and federal governments.

Radio shock-jock Alan Jones will attend the meeting, according to the Townsville Bulletin.

“We really do appreciate getting Alan Jones because we’ve got to show down south how much we’re hurting in the north,” meeting organiser Sandra Chesney was quoted as saying by the Bulletin.

“We really need to get a lot of people at this meeting so it doesn’t look like Townsville doesn’t care.

“Townsville will go down the tubes if we don’t do something.”

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