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Shorten and Stone sing from same song sheet

Although on opposide sides of politics, Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Member for Murray Sharman Stone hold similar beliefs about the Federal Government's attitude towards SPC Ardmona.

JARROD WHITTAKER February 4, 2014 4:57am

A worker signals her enthusiasm as Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten, Victorian Opposition leader Daniel Andrews and others walk by at Shepparton's SPC Ardmona plant yesterday.


Six months ago the idea Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Murray MP Sharman Stone would find common ground would have been laughable.

What a difference six months can make.

Both have accused senior federal Cabinet members of using SPC Ardmona workers as ‘‘scapegoats’’, following the Federal Government’s refusal last week to help the Goulburn Valley fruit processing company.

Their separate criticism follows Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz’s comments conditions at the company are ‘‘over-generous’’.

Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey yesterday said conditions at the company were ‘‘astounding’’ and declared ‘‘the age of entitlement is over’’.

Mr Shorten rejected the criticism during a visit to SPC Ardmona’s Shepparton plant yesterday.

He delivered a simple response.

‘‘Stop scapegoating people on 60 and 70 thousand dollars when you’re on a quarter of a million dollars,’’ Mr Shorten said.

‘‘The challenges faced by SPC Ardmona are to do with a high dollar, they’re to do with the dumping of imports.

‘‘The Abbott Government should stop blaming the workforce.’’

He said if SPC Ardmona withdrew from the region, it would cost more than $25million in welfare and relocation payments.

According to an Essential Economics report released last year, the loss of SPC Ardmona would cost the economy $165million a year and more than 2000 jobs.

The Federal Government’s refusal to help follows decision to provide $16million for Cadbury’s Hobart chocolate factory.

 

‘‘What’s the difference between a Cadbury worker in Hobart and cannery worker in Shepparton?’’ Mr Shorten said.

‘‘I’ll tell you the difference — Shepparton is a safe Liberal seat.’’

Speaking yesterday, Dr Stone described Mr Hockey’s criticism of conditions at SPC Ardmona as ‘‘not accurate’’.

‘‘There’s a whole range of other problems that have been identified by the Productivity Commission and the independent panel that the government put together,’’ she said.

‘‘These conditions are the Aussie dollar and the huge influx of imports.’’

She said the company was replacing 74 high-paid maintenance workers with contract labour.

‘‘They say it’s shocking that the food preservers that remain are being paid double their award wage, well an award wage is only $23000,’’ Dr Stone said.

She said ‘‘very few’’ workers in food manufacturing were paid the award wage.

For more on the visit to SPC Ardmona by members of Labor, including a major funding commitment from Victorian Opposition leader Daniel Andrews, grab a copy of today’s News.

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