Tony Abbott’s government has denied a request by SPC Ardmona for a $25 million aid to upgrade its Shepparton cannery. The Prime Minister said the decision is an “important marker” of his government’s approach to industry restructuring.
“This is a government that will make sure that the restructuring that some Australian businesses need, some Australian sectors need, is led by business, as it should be,” Mr Abbott said, quoted in a report on The Australian.
“And we will set the parameters. We will ensure that the climate is as good as it possibly can (be) for those businesses to do what is necessary, to restructure, to survive, to employ.”
Labor said Thursday was a “dark day” for Australian jobs while the fruit growers of Victoria worried that the decision would have “devastating” consequences for Shepparton.
The future of SPC Ardmona now lies in the hands of its parent company Coca-Cola Amatil. Mr Abbott put his faith on David Gonski saying the CCA Chairman “won’t let those workers down”.
“I know he will want to ensure that SPC Ardmona has a strong future, and I think that as a subsidiary of Coca-Cola Amatil, SPC does have a very strong future.”
The Cabinet has been divided on the issue, with Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce being among the supporters of the SPCA bid, while Treasurer Joe Hockey remaining firm on his stance that the Government should refuse aiding “lazy” companies who will later use the funds to pay out dividends or feed higher wage claims.
Victorian Deputy Premier Peter Ryan has also released a statement regarding the Commonwealth’s decision to reject a structural adjustment payment for SPC Ardmona, calling the move a “significant setback for Goulburn Valley communities and Victoria”.
Mr Ryan said the Victorian Coalition Government firmly believes that food production and food processing has a future in the Goulburn Valley and that SPC Ardmona should continue to be part of this future.
“The Goulburn Valley is the food bowl of Australia and food production and manufacturing in the region has a very positive outlook with potential to grow exports and create new jobs,” he said.
“We are very concerned about the potential impact on local growers and SPC Ardmona workers and urge Coca Cola Amatil to continue to work with growers, employees and government to secure the company’s future in the Goulburn Valley.”
Mr Ryan said the Coalition will continue to provide practical financial support to the Goulburn Valley, citing the initial investment of $5 million they placed in the Goulburn Valley Industry and Infrastructure Fund to see through the implementation of the recommendations of the Goulburn Valley Taskforce’s long term Industry and Employment Plan.
“The Victorian Coalition is actively working with growers, processors and the local community to position the region to capitalise on new export opportunities, emerging industry sectors and product innovation,” he said.
“We are eager to continue discussions with SPC Ardmona on the next steps to work on a sustainable plan to secure the company’s operations in the region.”