Pressure on Palmer to keep refinery open
Both major parties in Queensland are urging Clive Palmer to use his own wealth to bail out his struggling Townsville nickel smelter.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt has called on Mr Palmer to use his broader wealth and business empire to ensure the survival of the cash-strapped Yabulu refinery, which employs 700 workers.
"That would be our expectation and we hope that is the case because quite frankly we don't want to see people from the Townsville region put onto the unemployment scrap heap so close to Christmas, or any time for that matter," he said.
There's been speculation this week the facility could slip into administration after Mr Palmer's Mineralogy firm lost a court bid to force an estranged Chinese joint-venture partner to pay millions of dollars in "outstanding royalty payments".
Queensland Nickel, which runs the refinery, has reportedly been seeking a short-term $40 million "guarantee" from the government.
The company is also reportedly optimistic it can trade its way out of the red on the back of a recovery in world nickel prices.
But Mr Pitt said any assistance provided to the smelter would be temporary, warning the government had to be extremely cautious about using taxpayer money to bail out private firms.
"Of course as people will appreciate, that may well set some kind of precedent if there are other companies in future seeking such support," he added.
Shadow treasurer Tim Nicholls was much more blunt about the opposition Liberal National Party's position on a state government bailout.
"Quite clearly taxpayers shouldn't be bailing out a self-proclaimed billionaire," Mr Nicholls said.