SPC funding rejected by Government


The federal government has refused to provide an assistance package to Australia's last remaining fruit processing company, SPC Ardmona.

(Transcript from World News Australia Radio)

The federal government has refused to provide an assistance package to Australia's last remaining fruit processing company, SPC Ardmona.

The move puts more than one-thousand jobs in jeopardy and will almost certainly see the end of the fruit processing industry in Australia.

The company had asked for a government grant to help it modernise and deal with difficult market conditions, warning it would probably have to close in July without such support.

Thea Cowie reports.

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Federal cabinet has refused to agree to the proposal for a one-off grant of $25 million.

This would have been coupled with $25 million from the Victorian government and $150 million in new investment from SPC's parent company Coca-Cola Amatil.

The investment would have helped the company introduce new technology and products, as it faces pressures from the high Australian dollar and a flood of cheap imported products.

But Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane says the government has decided the company is capable of restructuring without government assistance.

"We believe industry reform needs to be led by industry and we believe that in this case the government would have to borrow money on behalf of the taxpayers to put into the proposal where we believe Coca-Cola with a very, very healthy balance sheet is able to provide that money from within its own resources."

Late last year, the federal government appointed a panel including former Labor minister Greg Combet to report on the best way to help the Victorian-based company.

Its report has not been made public.

More than 1000 workers at Victoria's SPC Ardmona fruit processing plant are now likely to lose their jobs and thousands more could be in jeopardy.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the government will support the company if it decides to continue restructuring.

He's also encouraging the company to renegotiate enterprise bargaining agreements.

"The existing agreement contains conditions and provisions that are well in excess of the award. There are wet allowances, there are loadings, there are extensive provisions to cash out sick leave, there are extremely generous redundancy provisions well in excess of the award. This does need to be very extensively renegotiated if this restructure is to be completed."

Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says the decision not to give SPC Ardmona a rescue package is short-sighted and damaging for the whole of Australia.

"There's about a million manufacturing jobs in Australia. The government has already goaded Holden into leaving Australia. Theyre now looking at trashing jobs in food processing - an area that will only grow as individual wealth in our region increases. This government has no plans for jobs. They're trashing car jobs, they're trashing food industry jobs, they're trashing manufacturing jobs. Sending those jobs offshore."

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon says if SPC Ardmona closes in July as predicted, there will be an influx of imported canned products.

He says this will have an adverse impact on fruit growers throughout the country.

Senator Xenophon says the government should be using anti-dumping duties to create a level playing field for companies such as SPC Ardmona.

Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne agrees.

"Tony Abbott goes to Davos and talks up free trade, says governments should get out of the way, just let business go for it. Well free trade has led to the massive dumping on Australia of cheap imports which have undermined food processing. Not only have we had a high Australian dollar but we have had the dumping of cheap imports and that's put huge pressure on companies like SPC Ardmona."

During the election campaign, Tony Abbott pledged $16 million to the Cadbury's company in Tasmania to help it develop a new factory.

At the time, he said an Abbott government would continue to support Australian jobs and Australian industry.



Source World News Australia

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