Palmer acted in own interests, court told

Clive Palmer is fighting a multi-million dollar lawsuit over Queensland Nickel's collapse.
Clive Palmer is fighting a multi-million dollar lawsuit over Queensland Nickel's collapse.

As Queensland Nickel crumbled around him, billionaire businessman Clive Palmer took steps to protect himself ahead of his workers, a court has heard.

The billionaire businessman is defending a massive federal government lawsuit against him and nephew Clive Mensink over the liquidation of his Townsville refinery which left hundreds without a job.

Government-appointed liquidators of QN are trying to claw back about $200 million owed to creditors after it shut down in early 2016.

The liquidators' task also includes recovering almost $70 million in taxpayer funds used to cover unpaid entitlements to about 800 workers sacked from the refinery.

In the Brisbane Supreme Court on Tuesday, lawyer for the liquidators Shane Doyle says before QN slipped into administration Mr Palmer "took steps to ensure security was obtained in favour of his interests".

Mr Palmer made the financial moves "knowing the company was going to go into administration", he said in his opening address.

He also knew "there would be employees who would be made redundant" and "trade creditors wouldn't get paid".

"They are transactions of the most extraordinary kind," Mr Doyle said.

Mr Doyle also outlined evidence he said would show QN had been trading insolvently many months before the administrators were called in.

A 280-page claim by the liquidators names 21 defendants, including Mr Mensink and a string of Mr Palmer's companies.

Mr Palmer made a last-minute legal bid to postpone the trial on Tuesday morning, arguing his expert witness Peter Dinoris was ill and could no longer take the stand.

But Justice Debra Mullins said the trial would go ahead.

Mr Palmer argued he would need time to find a replacement for Mr Dinoris, an insolvency expert.

Due to the complex nature of the case and many businesses involved it would take weeks for the replacement to get up to speed, he said.

Justice Mullins was sympathetic to Mr Palmer's concerns and directed that expert witnesses would be heard at the end of the 45-day trial, rather than in the second week as planned.

Mr Palmer has fought hard to have the liquidators' claim dismissed over the past two years, describing it as baseless and a desperate, politically motivated attack.

He is representing himself.

Australian Associated Press