Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Labor suggestions there was something improper about a $16m grant to Cadbury is "deeply regrettable".
27 Feb 2014 - 4:03 PM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2014 - 4:24 PM

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has chided Labor for pursuing him over a $16 million grant to Cadbury on the day Qantas announced the axing of 5000 jobs.

"You'd think members opposite would be supporting a job-creating project in Tasmania," he told parliament's question time.

Labor asked five questions of the prime minister, quizzing him about the role Alastair Furnival - a former chief of staff to Assistant Health Minister Fiona Nash - played in the decision.

Mr Abbott revealed Mr Furnival was employed by Cadbury as an economist when the coalition announced, as an election promise, funding to assist the company upgrade and reopen the visitors centre at its Hobart chocolate factory.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King wanted to know whether Mr Furnival or his wife's lobbying firm, Australian Public Affairs, would directly benefit from the funding.

Mr Abbott responded by saying the tourism infrastructure grant to Cadbury was designed to boost employment and help the Tasmanian economy.

"There was nothing improper about this," he said, noting the coalition took it to the September election, adding suggestions to the contrary were "deeply regrettable".

Ms King was later suspended from parliament when she refused to withdraw a comment about an apparent close relationship between the prime minister and Mr Furnival.

Cadbury had sponsored Mr Abbott's charity fundraising bike ride Pollie Pedal, she said.

As well, there were photos of the pair being "team mates" on the ride.

"If ever there was a case of something is rotten in the state of Denmark, then this is absolutely it," Ms King said.

When the MP was asked to withdraw the remark, she said: "I am unable to withdraw because it is simply true."

Deputy speaker Bruce Scott ejected her from the lower house chamber for defying the chair.