Documents lodged with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) show family members were moved in and out of key roles at Mr Palmer’s companies just days before QNI announced the redundancies and administration.
Between January 8 and 12, his wife Anna Palmer was made a director and secretary of his flagship company Mineralogy and appointed to the same roles at China First Coal and Canada Acquisition Group.
She was also appointed as secretary at Waratah Coal, having already been a director there since 2010.
Mr Palmer’s daughter Emily Palmer, 21, was appointed as a Waratah Coal director for a day on January 9, while son Michael Palmer, 25, ceased his director role on January 10.
It’s not clear what benefit Mr Palmer was seeking from the reshuffle, but the new appointments were at the expense of nephew Clive Mensink, who lost director and secretary roles at the companies.
Mr Mensink, QNI’s managing director, has been the spokesman for the cash-strapped company while Mr Palmer has kept a low profile.
He has blamed sluggish commodity prices and the state government’s refusal to guarantee a $35 million loan for the company’s woes.
Acting Prime Minister Warren Truss, who visited Townsville on Thursday, said although it didn’t appear Mr Palmer had breached parliamentary rules, he still needed to behave like “an honourable citizen” and was not above the law.
“Because he may have substantial resources – he may be a famous man – that doesn’t mean that he’s immune from the law, they apply to him just like every other businessman,” he said.
Mr Truss said Mr Palmer needed to “honour his obligations”, referring to entitlements owed to the sacked workers.
I’ll tell truth on Qld Nickel soon: Palmer
Clive Palmer has promised to write to every home in Townsville to “tell the truth” about what happened with his struggling nickel refinery in the north Queensland city.
But not just yet.
The businessman-turned-politician has been unusually quiet since his company Queensland Nickel (QNI) announced in the past week that it had made 237 workers redundant at its refinery and entered voluntary administration.
Mr Palmer says he had deliberately kept quiet because “this issue is not a political one”, but would open up following a creditors’ meeting in Townsville next week.
“At that time I will personally write to each household in the Townsville community telling them the truth of the matter,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
The outspoken federal MP took aim at other politicians and the media for using QNI’s woes as a political football.
“It is not reasonable for the Premier (Annastacia Palaszczuk), her Labor government or the Opposition to politically grandstand while the administration process is under way,” he said.
Mr Palmer also launched a bizarre attack against the media, accusing it of being complicit in a personal vendetta against him by Rupert Murdoch after he called the media mogul’s former wife Wendi Deng “a Chinese spy”.
“Mr Murdoch has never refuted these comments,” he said.
Uncertainty over Qld Nickel clean-up
The Queensland government won’t say whether taxpayers will foot the bill to rehabilitate the Queensland
Nickel site if the firm collapses.
Shadow Environment Minister Stephen Bennett has raised concerns the state would have to pay the clean-up bill to remediate Clive Palmer’s Yabulu refinery site if the firm was unable to trade its way out of voluntary administration.
“The problem for Queensland taxpayers is the potential clean-up costs at the site and in particular the sludge ponds which contain a toxic mix of chemicals and heavy metals,” he said.
He claims the cost would be more than $300 million, while other reports estimate the bill would be somewhere between $25-100 million.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) said an environment bond was not held for the refinery because it didn’t apply to “businesses of this type”.
“Queensland Nickel’s Environmental Authority imposes strict conditions on the refinery’s operations that ensure the safety of the surrounding environment, including the Great Barrier Reef,” a spokesman said.
The company’s responsibilities hadn’t been changed by the fact administrators had been appointed, he said.
There were also specific requirements that the firm must rehabilitate tailing dams and ensure the area was “safe to humans and wildlife”.
However, the department wouldn’t say whether taxpayers would have to pay to rehabilitate the site if Queensland Nickel or any future owner didn’t have the funds to do so.
“EHP will not pre-empt the work of the administrator by commenting on the future operations of the refinery,” the
Queensland Resources Council chief executive Michael Roche said refineries operated under different rules when asked if they should be required to pay a bond like mining firms.
“But I think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves, aren’t we?” he said.
“There are many businesses that go into administration and successfully come out the other side, perhaps with a new owner.”