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Federal government should ensure Queensland Nickel workers entitlements: Shorten

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Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to use a government entitlements scheme to ensure sacked Queensland Nickel workers are paid $30 million in owed entitlements.

In Brisbane on Saturday to launch Queensland Labor's Fight for Queensland federal election campaign, Mr Shorten said the government-funded General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme could be used as an interim measure, after the Clive Palmer-owned refinery went into voluntary administration.

"I don't  know why the government can't use the GEARS scheme to support the workers in their entitlements and then seek restitution from Mr Palmer or from the QNI company," he said.

"I think it is important the federal government does what it can to make sure these employees caught up in a set of circumstances not of their own making are not left stranded in terms of their entitlements and ... the government should not rely on any technicalities to avoid supporting the workers in terms of payments of their entitlements. Instead the government should stand in their shoes."

Mr Palmer, the billionaire mining magnate turned federal MP for the Sunshine Coast seat of Fairfax, did not attend a meeting of 480 creditors and sacked employees at the Townsville refinery on Friday, a week after it went into voluntary administration.


Administrators say the company owes $30 million in employee entitlements, along with between $70 million and $80 million to about 1500 creditors.

It also emerged after the company went into administration it had donated $21 million to Mr Palmer's Palmer United Party, funds Mr Palmer said would not be repaid.

Mr Turnbull said on Friday that Mr Palmer had let down the workers at the Townsville refinery and hoped it would continue to operate.

"His management of Queensland Nickel, from what we know to date, is shocking," Mr Turnbull told 3AW's Neil Mitchell.

"The only thing I'm concerned about, frankly, with that mine, that smelter, I should say, is that the industry continues, the jobs continue, the workers are looked after.

"We're doing everything we can to ensure that, but I think Mr Palmer's - I would forecast that Mr Palmer's time as the owner of that will be coming to an end."

However, at Saturday's Fight for Queensland launch where she introduced Mr Shorten, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attacked the Prime Minister for his inaction.

"My government has so far accelerated more than $200 million in projects to bring forward more than 450 jobs in that region alone," she said.

"What did the Federal Liberal Government do? Issue a press release and direct workers to a website."

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