Apr 11, 2016

Forum to tackle QN fallout

Forum to tackle QN fallout

Workers and businesspeople affected by the Queensland Nickel collapse are expected to join a Townsville meeting today to be chaired by broadcaster Alan Jones.

Former local councillor Sandra Chesney is among the meeting co-ordinators after starting a “jobs for North Queensland” campaign late last year.

She hoped to see at least 1000 people turn up for the forum at The Ville Casino from 1.45pm.

Mrs Chesney said Townsville could not afford to lose 800 QN refinery jobs as well as the many more being lost to the ripple effect throughout the region.

She believed the ‘top end of town’ including businesspeople and politicians were talking the issue down when they should be making a stand like Whyalla in South Australia, where debt-laden steel maker Arrium has gone into administration.

“It’s not political and I’m sick and tired of people saying it is political,” she said.

The meeting was chance for workers and others affected by the QN collapse to tell the State and Federal governments what they wanted, Mrs Chesney said.

Mrs Chesney said workers wanted the operation to go into liquidation and for administrators to supply all the paperwork required to allow them to access the Fair Entitlement Guarantee – a federal financial assistance scheme to cover certain unpaid employment entitlements.

She said workers were also seeking local, state and federal support for a buy-back proposal to get the nickel refinery up and running again.

With so many jobs involved, she believed it should attract a concessional loan under the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility.

Mrs Chesney said Member for Kennedy Bob Katter had rung her due to her jobs for North Queensland push, asked “how can I help?” and had approached Alan Jones to gain more attention nationally for the city’s plight.

Mr Katter last week called on the State and Federal governments, business leaders and the workers to assert themselves at the meeting.

“The business leadership in Townsville must step forward and organise a prominent business group to provide comfort for a government coming in with a guaranteed loans scheme and discomfort for any of the politicians not backing a buy-out scheme,” he said.

“There must be action from the State ALP members and the Federal LNP and Senators to help us here. I’ll be the first to encourage and applaud them if they step forward and fight for their people.  Come on fellas!”

Meanwhile, the ABC program Four Corners will tonight focus on refinery owner Clive Palmer with an investigation into his involvement in purchasing decisions at times when he was not a listed director of Queensland Nickel. (See http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-11/clive-palmer-had-final-say-millions-spent-at-queensland-nickel/7311572)