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SPC's bid for assistance rejected

SPC Ardmona's bid for $25 million in assistance has been rejected.

January 30, 2014 10:27am

UPDATE, 4.28pm: SPC Ardmona's bid for $25 million in assistance has been rejected by the Federal Government.

The news will be confirmed in a press conference with Prime Minister Tony Abbott at 4.30pm.

More in tomorrow's Shepparton News.

 

UPDATE, 4.11pm: Federal Cabinet has rejected SPC Ardmona’s bid for assistance, The Australian newspaper is reporting.

The Australian reported online unnamed Cabinet sources had confirmed the company’s bid for $25 million assistance had been discussed, but ultimately rejected.

 

UPDATE, 2.15pm: Labor is continuing to put pressure on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to aid SPC Ardmona  ahead of a decision expected later today.

In separate interviews, acting Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek and industry spokesman Kim Carr voiced their support for the company.

Ms Plibersek said the loss of SPC Ardmona would deprive Australia of the capacity to process fruit.

‘‘We know that there’s a big emerging middle-class in Asia in our neighbourhood,’’ she said.

‘‘That that big emerging middle-class is going to be interested in buying fresh Australian produce and processed Australian fruit and vegetables.’’

Ms Plibersek said Australia was perfectly positioned to take advantage of growing demand for Australian products in the Asian market.

Last night federal Treasurer Joe Hockey hosed down the prospects of SPC Ardmona receiving assistance — drawing a sharp rebuke from Senator Carr.

‘‘The fact is that companies don’t have to invest in Australia — they can choose to invest elsewhere,’’ he said.

‘‘And if you leave these issues to the market alone, there is no doubt the market will decide the issue but it won’t be in Australia’s favour.

‘‘We’ve got to attract the new technologies, the new high skill jobs to Australia and governments have to fight for jobs.’’         

 

UPDATE, 12.11pm: The flow-on effect if SPC Ardmona would ripple through the entire Murray Darling Basin, independent Senator Nick Xenophon warns.

With Cabinet still considering the company’s $25 million request, Senator Xenophon said the issue was bigger than the Goulburn Valley.

‘‘This will have a domino effect,’’ he said.

‘‘If growers in Victoria can’t sell their fruit to SPC, it will inevitably lead to a glut in supply and a drop in prices across the entire Murray Darling Basin.’’

He criticised the failure of anti-dumping  measures to protect the company.

Senator Xenophon said Australian companies were competing on an uneven playing field.

"It’s a big part of the reason why so many Australian businesses are struggling,” he said. “The Government needs to understand that free trade shouldn’t be ‘free-for-all’ trade.”

 

UPDATE, 11.20am: Providing SPC Ardmona with a ‘‘measly’’ $25million is a ‘‘no-brainer’’, Federal Member for Murray Sharman Stone says.

Cabinet is now meeting to discuss providing assistance to the embattled canner.

The decision could shape the company’s future in the region.

Dr Stone said the industry was a strong contributor to the region’s economy.

‘‘We are a country with magnificent climate, great soils, great orchards — for a measly $25million in support,’’ she told ABC radio.

‘‘I just see this as a no-brainer.’’

The company is seeking $25million each from the Federal and Victorian governments to modernise its operations.

If successful it would contribute $150million of its own resources.

Dr Stone warned against the loss of the industry.

‘‘You are not going to be able to kickstart our orchard industries once the bulldozers have finished their work.’’

 

EARLIER - 10.27am: The Federal Government will ‘‘negligent’’ and ignoring its own advice if it refuses to assist SPC Ardmona, a senior Opposition frontbencher says.

Federal Cabinet began meeting at 10am to discuss assistance for the Shepparton-based food manufacturer.

Federal Opposition industry spokesman Senator Kim Carr said the fate of the company was in the government’s hands.

‘‘SPC Ardmona is Australia’s last fresh fruit processor — if it closes that capability will be lost forever,’’ Senator Carr said.

‘‘The fate of this company rests in the chaotic and divided hands of the Abbott Cabinet.’’

The package — which Labor backed while in government — would result in $25million each being provided by the Federal and Victorian governments.

‘‘The business case for this co-investment has been examined in detail, both during our time in government and more recently by the expert panel appointed by the Abbott Government, which recommended that the commonwealth back SPC Ardmona,’’ Senator Carr said.

‘‘It would be negligent of the government to ignore the advice of its own expert panel and industry department.’’

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