Palmer United Party (PUP) Leader Clive Palmer reportedly used an alias to run the embattled Queensland Nickel refinery that went into voluntary administration last week, and could walk away without losing any assets.
This is despite the fact that he claimed, since being elected into Parliament in 2013, that he would remain “at an arm’s length” from the daily operations of the plant, The Australian reported.
According to The Australian, Mr Palmer used a “Terry Smith” Yahoo email address to sign off on purchases and keep an eye on the operations of the Townsville refinery — a process described by a corporate lawyer described as legal but “really weird”.
Job losses at Mr Palmer’s Yabulu nickel refinery, and allegations he used company cash to fund his political campaign, have plummeted the politician’s voter support in his Sunshine Coast seat to almost zero, according to new research.
A Galaxy poll published in The Courier-Mail on Monday suggested his primary support sat at just 2 per cent, down from 26.5 per cent when he won the seat by preferences in 2013.
The refinery’s complex business model, involving various subsidiary companies designed to protect against insolvency, will reportedly prevent Mr Palmer losing any assets, Fairfax Media reported. The structure did not, however, prevent 237 workers from being sacked on January 15.
Mr Palmer claimed on the weekend that even he did not fully understand the refinery’s ownership structure.
“I don’t fully understand it myself, to be honest,” he told The Australian Financial Review.
But he insisted the refinery would continue to operate.
Plummeting voter support
Meanwhile, the business troubles continued to erode Mr Palmer’s electoral support. The Galaxy poll of Fairfax voters found that 83 per cent were dissatisfied with his performance and just 7 per cent believed he was doing a satisfactory job.
Galaxy polled 506 Fairfax voters on January 21, six days after Queensland Nickel fired 237 workers.
He’s since had to defend more than $20 million in donations the company made to bankroll his Palmer United Party, and the company is now in voluntary administration as workers fight for their entitlements.
Asked who they’d vote for if an election was held now, 50 per cent of poll respondents said the Liberal National Party. That’s up from 41.3 per cent at the last election.
But Labor’s vote is also up, from 18.2 per cent to 27 per cent.
Mr Palmer refused to comment on the poll but turned to Twitter to call it “propaganda”.
-with Kaitlin Thals, Jackson Stiles and AAP