Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Stone speaks out on SPC

Federal Member for Murray Sharman Stone has taken aim at senior members of her own government in a bid to secure funding for SPC Ardmona.

JARROD WHITTAKER January 10, 2014 6:14am

Speaking out: Federal Member for Murray Sharman Stone has lashed out at members of her own government about their SPC Ardmona funding views.

The embattled Goulburn Valley food processor is seeking $25million each from the federal and Victorian governments to improve its operation.

Federal Cabinet was due to consider the matter last month, but deferred a decision.

According to reports, senior cabinet figures oppose funding the Coca-Cola Amatil subsidiary for fear of creating a precedent.

Yesterday, Dr Stone said there was a danger free-market advocates within Cabinet would oppose the funding for ideological reasons.

‘‘This isn’t about protection, it isn’t about subsidy,’’ Dr Stone said.

‘‘This is about a one-off co-investment so this particular company can survive another day.’’

SPC Ardmona would contribute $90million as part of the co-investment package.

About 3000 jobs across the region could be lost if the canner was to close, she said.

Yesterday, she told The Financial Review some within Cabinet believed ‘‘support for manufacturing somehow interferes with so-called free-market forces’’.

‘‘People run around and say ‘We’ve got a level playing field and if you fail it’s because you’re not good enough’,’’ Dr Stone said.

‘‘That doesn’t ring true.’’

She said businesses were affected by a range of factors beyond their control.

The issue of government support has divided the Federal Coalition, with the Nationals supporting helping the Goulburn Valley company.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently weighed into the government assistance debate, declaring ‘‘no government has ever subsidised its way to prosperity’’.

The issue of support for SPC Ardmona is expected to be considered at the next Cabinet meeting.

Dr Stone said she expected the meeting to be before the end of the month.

Federal Opposition leader Bill Shorten yesterday said Dr Stone’s comments highlighted divisions in the Coalition.

‘‘We have seen Sharman Stone, a Liberal senior member of parliament, say that SPC should be protected,’’ Mr Shorten said.

‘‘We will have to hear if Joe Hockey is going to give in to her or not.’’

Additional reporting: AAP

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