Clive Palmer has rejected any suggestion he should step down from Parliament. Photo: Alex EllinghausenEmbattled businessman and politician Clive Palmer is facing increasing calls for him to resign from Parliament amid anger over the fate of his company Queensland Nickel.
Queensland Liberal MP and Assistant Minister for Science Karen Andrews called on Mr Palmer to step down, saying he had a responsibility to the 550 remaining employees of the nickel refinery just outside Townsville as well as the 237 recently made redundant.
“I think he should resign and he should resign before Parliament resumes next week,” she told Sky News on Monday. “He has major responsibilities at Queensland Nickel.”
Queensland Nickel, understood to be $70 million in debt, was placed in voluntary administration last week and Mr Palmer has been forced to defend more than $20 million in political donations from the company to his Palmer United Party.
It was reported on Monday that Mr Palmer used the alias Terry Smith to continue running his troubled company while insisting publicly that he was staying at “arm’s length” due to his parliamentary duties.
As Mr Palmer resists pressure to resign, there is division inside Queensland’s Liberal-National Party about what he should do, with Nationals-aligned Queensland senator Matt Canavan also suggesting he should choose between politics and business and Liberal MP Ewen Jones dismissing calls for him to quit.
Senator Canavan said that the leader of the Palmer United Party can’t be a “part-time MP” and that both his electorate and employees of his businesses deserve better.
“I think Clive needs to reflect on what he wants to do, does he want to be a full time MP or a businessman?” he said last week.
But Mr Jones, whose electorate of Herbert covers the refinery, says that his colleagues should be focussing on the donations, loans and protecting jobs.
“Let’s step away from the personal attacks and focus on the process here. I’ve got a refinery here that’s still got 550-odd direct employees…who are vitally worried about what’s going on here. Telling Clive to quit Parliament is not going to fix bloody anything,” Mr Jones told Fairfax Media.
Ms Andrews argued that “the reality is that Queensland Nickel, the refinery at Yabulu, is very significant to Townsville and to the economy and I would think that Clive Palmer certainly has a responsibility to make sure that those employees who have already been made redundant are paid their proper entitlements and that he puts in maximum effort to make sure that the remaining employees are going to have secure employment going forward and that’s a full-time job.”
A new poll has put his primary vote in his seat of Fairfax at 2 per cent, compared to 26.5 per cent at the 2013 election, when he won by a mere 53 votes.
Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg said that Ms Andrews made some important points and was entitled to do so but he didn’t back the calls for resignation, saying instead that Mr Palmer has a lot of explaining to do. He did, however, predict Mr Palmer would lose the next election.
“It’s up to Clive Palmer to make that decision whether or not he sees out his term. As to whether he’ll win that seat if he recontests it, I don’t think he will and that’s indicated by the polls earlier today,” he told Sky News.
Mr Frydenberg said the government was focused on the long-term welfare of the refinery employees, citing the offer of $500,000 to help sacked workers find new jobs.
Mr Palmer has rejected any suggestion he should step down from Parliament.
“There’s no reason why I wouldn’t run. There are a lot of people in the electorate that have given me a lot of support,” Mr Palmer told ABC radio on Monday, having blamed the falling cost of nickel and the Queensland government for the job losses at Yabulu.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has said that anyone who refuses to pay workers’ entitlements or repay creditors is a “disgrace” and that addressing those issues should be his priority.
“Money that’s owed through leave and other entitlements is money earned by the workers, and it should be there for them. If you’re there in the good times, you have an obligation to be there in the bad times too,” he said on Monday.
“Anyone who refuses to pay workers’ entitlements or leaves small business creditors in the lurch is a disgrace.”
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