Is Australia Open for Business…?
When the “adults” assumed government they announced that Australia was “open for business”.
Since then, Holden has quit manufacturing and exited Australia, and now the Abbott Government has refused to provide financial support for SPC Ardmona.
SPC wants assistance to upgrade its product development facilities, topped up by $150 million from parent company Coca-Cola Amatil.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has indicated he’s not in favour of giving the handout.
Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek has urged the Government to act in the interests of SPC, to keep the last fresh fruit processing company in Australia, employing locals.
“I don’t see anything more un-Australian than sending Australian jobs offshore,” she told Gutter Trash reporters in Canberra this morning.
Her comments come after Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday took a swipe at the ABC, suggesting the broadcaster takes “everyone’s side but Australia’s”.
Ms Plibersek used Holden’s decision last month to cease production in Australia to claim the Coalition has no plan for jobs.
“The Government has already goaded Holden into leaving Australia,” she said.
“They’re now looking at trashing jobs in food processing, an area that will only grow as individual wealth in our region increases.”
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says the end of the line of SPC Ardmona would have flow-on effects for fruit growers in other states.
Senator Xenophon said the government should be using anti-dumping duties to create a level playing field for companies such as SPC Ardmona.
“The government needs to understand that free trade shouldn’t be ‘free for all’ trade,” Senator Xenophon said.
The Productivity Commission has rejected the use of further tariffs on imported fruit.
Senator Xenophon said that if SPC Ardmona closes there would be an influx of imported canned produce which would have an impact on the processed fruit sector across the country.
Labor says Treasurer Joe Hockey’s opposition to financial assistance for SPC Ardmona shows his “merchant banker’s” perspective on the issue”.
However, Joe “the Hockey” says corporations, like governments, have to live within their means.
The Federal Opposition’s industry spokesman Kim Carr says the government should be more patriotic about Australian manufacturing.
“Joe Hockey has a merchant banker’s view, particularly popular in the North Shore of Sydney, about the way in which the international economy works.
“The fact is that companies don’t have to invest in Australia, they can choose to invest elsewhere, and if you leave these issues to the market alone, there’s no doubt the market will decide the issue.
“But it won’t be in Australia’s favour. Governments have to fight for jobs.”
The Coalition Government is divided on the issue; Liberal MP Sharman Stone, whose electorate takes in the SPC factory and some of the fruit farms that supply it, has strongly urged her colleagues to support the grant. She says it’s a small amount of money in the overall budget context, but will have a hugely significant impact for Victoria.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has told Fairfax Media that he also supports the bailout, and the ABC understands that Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane is urging his Cabinet colleagues to approve the plan.
But Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Tuesday that while the government will seriously consider business requests for assistance, “in the end businesses have got to put their house in order”.
“The parent company of SPC Ardmona, Coca-Cola Amatil, which is an Australian company, in the first six months of this year had a profit of over $215 million, for six months, and yet there is a request for $50 million of taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“I think you can understand why we are being very cautious, very careful about handing out taxpayers’ money to companies that are profitable let alone companies that aren’t profitable.”
SPC Ardmona argues it’s been driven to the wall not through its own failings, but because of broader economic forces and conditions, including the high Australian dollar and being forced to compete with high levels of cheap imported product from overseas.
Where should government support (if any) begin and end for struggling Aussie companies…?