Ewen Jones is usually one of the most jovial and upbeat members in the parliament, but the Member for Herbert was left in tears on Friday as he announced a government assistance package for sacked workers from the Queensland Nickel refinery.
Jones, whose north Queensland electorate takes in troubled refinery owned by Clive Palmer which is in administration and facing liquidation, announced the government would guarantee the entitlements of the several hundred workers who have lost their jobs.
The government will now directly pursue Palmer and Queensland Nickel for funds through a Special Purpose Liquidator, with almost $74 million in redundancy payments to be paid by the government under the Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) scheme.
"This is a tough day in Townsville, because this says that this is the end of the line for a lot of these people. This is taxpayers' money and no one at Queensland Nickel who has lost their job wants to have taxpayers' money," Jones said.
"We will pursue the management of Queensland Nickel to ensure that we are a creditor of Queensland Nickel. We will pursue that money that taxpayers are owed. It's the measures we want to get through to the Queensland Nickel employees. Because this is really important for Townsville."
At that point, Jones began to cry and stepped away from the microphone, with Employment Minister Michaelia Cash taking over.
The $74 million bill is reportedly the largest payout under the FEG since it was set up under the government of John Howard.
Cash said the government will pursue the funds.
"This includes pursuing Clive Palmer and all of his entities that have been the beneficiaries of the cash that has been stripped from Queensland Nickel," Cash said.
"Unfortunately it could have all been avoided," Cash said.
"A viable enterprise has been run into the ground by its managers and former owners."