Government rejects $25 million funding for SPC Ardmona

Tony Abbott
Tony Abbott Vicki Wood

SPC Ardmona will not get a cent extra from the Abbott Government, after the Cabinet on Thursday trumped an appeal from Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane to give it $25 million to keep operating.

The fruit canning company, which is owned by Coca Cola Amatil (CCA), last year asked the government for $25 million to support its operations, one of several manufacturers to do so in recent months.

While Mr MacFarlane and at least one frontbench Nationals MP backed the appeal, the Cabinet, with the support of Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey, knocked it back.

Mr Abbott said SPC Ardmona's parent company, CCA, was already mid-way through a restructure of SPCA, including giving it $161 million to keep operating.

But a crucial part of the restructure, he said, was the renegotiation of enterprise bargaining agreements for all employees at the company's factory in Shepparton, Victoria.

Mr Abbott said the company had the full support of the government in renegotiating the EBAs, which he described as "extremely generous", citing additional penalties and above-award redundancy payments available to employees.

While he said the restructure, extra funds and a change of management were crucial parts of the Cabinet's decision not to provide the funds; it was up to the business to renegotiate the agreements.

He said the government would provide the "framework" for companies to employ more people, but that it was not the government's role to manage businesses.

While Mr Abbott stopped short of suggesting a wider reform of the industrial relations system, Mr MacFarlane described the Cabinet's decision as a "defining moment" for industrial policy under the Abbott Government.

Mr MacFarlane said the decision was a "clear delineation of where the government needs to be with industry policy".

Topics:  business government funding

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