Clive Palmer claims the Turnbull government wants to erase him from the political landscape because his party can win the balance of power in the Senate.
The federal MP says the government is going to dangerous lengths to end his political career, and its pursuit of him over the Queensland Nickel collapse is Nazi-esque.
The Coalition government has promised to cover some of the $73.9 million owed to almost 800 workers sacked from Mr Palmer’s Queensland Nickel refinery in Townsville, with the company almost certain to be put into liquidation next week.
But in an unprecedented move, the government will seek court permission to appoint a special-purpose liquidator to target assets held by the Fairfax MP and his companies, in the hope taxpayer funds can be clawed back.
Mr Palmer laughed at claims by Employment Minister Michaelia Cash that the move had nothing to do with his position in parliament.
“Here we have the executive of the federal government ordering the investigation of a political opponent,” he told AAP on Friday.
“They know that the polls are showing we can win three, four senators and have the balance of power. They want to crush us by any means whatsoever. They are absolutely desperate.”
Senator Cash said Mr Palmer’s company had abandoned its workforce and there was no way taxpayers were going to foot the bill if the MP had assets that could be recovered.
“Everything will be looked at,” she told reporters in Townsville.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Mr Palmer’s role in the Queensland Nickel collapse was a disgrace.
“He’s been taking money out of that company for his own purposes and that has played a major part in the dire state the business is in,” he said.
Mr Palmer said he didn’t know if he personally had $74 million to cover the entitlements bill.
“I don’t know. I haven’t looked,” he said.
But he said the government must explain why the Queensland Nickel case was being treated so differently.
“There are a whole lot of other liquidations and administrations going on across Australia. There’s no call for any of their shareholders to pay anything,” he said.
“Why call on me? Because Malcolm Turnbull knows we can get the balance of power but poor old Malcolm shouldn’t worry about that because he hasn’t done nothing as prime minister anyway.”
Senator Cash expects the majority of sacked workers would get most of what they’re owed, but admits the entitlements of some will exceed the cap that applies to the Fair Entitlements Scheme.
In that case, a drawn-out liquidation process will determine if they’ll receive the balance owing to them.
Townsville MP Ewen Jones broke down as the federal assistance was announced, saying so many in the city had been plunged into desperate circumstances.
“Our city is bigger than Clive Palmer and we’ll get over him.”
He said a special-purpose liquidator would look at “everyone at Queensland Nickel”, not just Mr Palmer.
“If it just so happens that Clive Palmer is in line, he’ll get it,” he said.
Earlier this week, Queensland Nickel’s administrators said there was evidence of gross, and possibly criminal, mismanagement by Mr Palmer and his nephew, Queensland Nickel’s sole appointed director Clive Mensink.