Queensland Nickel workers will know within 24 hours how much assistance they will get from the federal government.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has told businessman-MP Clive Palmer to reach into his own pocket and cover $73 million in entitlements owed to hundreds of workers made redundant by the company’s collapse.
Some of them have been waiting months for payment, unable to access welfare support while administrators determined how much they are likely to receive.
Liquidation of Queensland Nickel automatically triggers the Fair Entitlements Guarantee – a taxpayer-funded safety net to cover the unpaid entitlements of workers.
“A decision will be made in the next 24 hours,” Employment Minister Michaelia Cash told Sky News on Wednesday.
The minister has the discretion to order an early release of the funds, but believes Mr Palmer is morally obliged to cover the entitlements.
“I think it is a disgrace that Clive Palmer may well get off the hook,” she said.
Mr Turnbull also insists Mr Palmer should be the one making good the entitlements.
“That’s the very least he can do in these circumstances,” he said, noting that Mr Palmer had held himself up as a great business leader and philanthropist.
Townsville-based federal MP Ewen Jones took aim at Mr Palmer after the administrators found he secretly acted as a shadow director of Queensland Nickel.
Mr Palmer used the company as a piggy bank to prop up his other businesses and spending $21.5 million on donations to his political party, they said in their report.
The findings have been dismissed as “a lie” by the businessman.
“It is galling up here that we have to sit through his performances,” Mr Jones said.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has penned another letter to Mr Turnbull requesting urgent federal support.
“In light of (the) recommendation by the company’s administrators that QNI be placed in liquidation, I ask that you belatedly and urgently reconsider your decision,” he writes.