Liberals close ranks on SPC 'lying'
Liberal Josh Frydenberg defends Tony Abbott's SPC Ardmona claims, but Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon accuses the government of not doing its homework.PT0M0S 620 349
Government frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull has defended Tony Abbott against accusations he lied about workers' conditions at SPC Ardmona, saying the Prime Minister has never lied to him and does not lie.
On Tuesday, outspoken Liberal MP Sharman Stone accused Mr Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey of ''lying'' when suggesting that workers' conditions at troubled food processor were overly generous.
Malcolm Turnbull: Prime Minister Tony Abbott is an "absolute straight shooter". Photo: Rob Homer
SPC Ardmona – who last week had their request to the federal government for a $25 million assistance package rejected - has since refuted the claims that workers were over compensated.
On Wednesday, Mr Turnbull defended the Prime Minister during an interview on Fairfax Radio in Brisbane. When asked ''is Tony Abbott a liar?'' the Communications Minister quickly replied: ''Absolutely not. He's an absolute straight shooter''.
When asked if Mr Abbott had ever lied to him, Mr Turnbull replied: ''Never lied to me, no''.
Independent federal MP for Indi Cathy McGowan described Sharman Stone as a ‘‘fantastic’’ and ‘‘tenacious’’ local member. Photo: Penny Stephens
But Mr Turnbull stopped short of criticising Dr Stone for her comments, noting that ''in passionate times, people say passionate things. And sometimes they're not as well considered as they should be''.
He also praised the member for Murray as a ''good friend and good colleague''.
Independent MP Cathy McGowan also weighed into the SPC Ardmona saga on Wednesday, saying more MPs should follow the lead of Dr Stone and engage in fiery debate.
In an address to the Rural Press Club in Melbourne, Ms McGowan applauded Dr Stone, who she described as a ''fantastic'' and ''tenacious'' local member for Shepparton.
On Tuesday, Ms Stone hinted that she may not stay in the Liberal party for the ''long term'' after launching her extraordinary attack on Mr Abbott and Mr Hockey.
''It is exactly what politics should be about. I love that Sharman is a member of the Liberal party and she is able to get up there and have feisty debate with everybody else about what needs to happen,'' Ms McGowan said.
''She wasn't put down, she stood up, she's carrying the flag for her people, she's exactly what we want people to do.''
Ms McGowan, who unseated former Coalition frontbencher Sophie Mirabella in the rural seat of Indi at last year's federal election, called for ''good public policy'' on manufacturing and food production in Australia.
''I think it's such a bad thing to close down debate and what I saw happening was people blaming the workers, or putting blame on people where it didn't belong. That's not the issue. The issue is the future of manufacturing and food production in Australia,'' she said.
As the debate continues over the government's decision not to grant SPC Ardmona $25 million in assistance, Dr Stone has written to Mr Abbott to urge him to reconsider his stance.
Dr Stone said she emailed the Prime Minister on Tuesday.
''I've asked could he please reconsider the cabinet decision on the basis that at that press conference ... he said that if they sort of got their house in order that might be a different story,'' Dr Stone told Channel Nine.
In her address to the Rural Press Melbourne, Ms McGowan also strongly advocated for electronic voting, and said she had spoken to fellow crossbencher Clive Palmer about this issue.
''I think we have moved past pencil and paper for voting . . . pencil and paper are last century . . . Let's get it done quickly and move into the 21st Century.''
She said agricultural production and manufacturing, the environment, telecommunications and public transport were high on her agenda for Indi.