Abbott is lying about SPC: Liberal MP
In an interview with ABC rural radio, federal MP Sharman Stone accuses the Prime Minister of lying in saying that SPC's union pay deals are the reason they're in trouble.PT2M1S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31y66 620 349 February 4, 2014
Within minutes of Treasurer Joe Hockey declaring an end to ''the age of entitlement'' on Monday Assistant Infrastructure Minister Jamie Briggs stood on a highway on the outskirts of Hobart and announced a grant of $3.5 million to a Tasmanian seafood processor, Huon Aquaculture.
It would help ''provide the equipment to process fresh fish, as well as smokehouses and other machinery for boning, skinning, portioning and mincing,'' he said.
Jamie Briggs. Photo: Rob Homer
The Tasmanian government was kicking in $1.5 million, the Commonwealth $3.5 million and Huon Aquaculture $7 million.
As it happens the proportions are roughly similar to those asked for by SPC Ardmona to save its fruit canning plants in Victoria. SPC had suggested $25 million from the state government, $25 million from the Commonwealth and $90 million from itself. In fact, as a proportion of the total, SPC had asked the Commonwealth for less than Huon - $2 in every $10 rather than $3.
Why did the Commonwealth reject one, creating ''an important marker'' and not the other?
On Tuesday Finance Minister Mathias Cormann tied himself in knots explaining one was a ''grant'' and the other a ''co-investment'', although it wasn't always clear which.
''Let's just be very clear,'' he said. ''We were not being asked to make a co-investment, we were being asked to make a grant from the taxpayer to an individual business so that they would be able to invest in a $12-million restructure of their business. We were not being asked to make an investment.''
Governments of all persuasions support businesses, sometimes by direct grants, sometimes tax breaks, sometimes by tariffs and sometimes by providing services such as Austrade, subsidised water and power, technical colleges and the CSIRO.
The $16 million to Cadbury in Tasmania is ''essentially an investment in tourism infrastructure'', according to the Prime Minister.
What will eventually be $750 million a year in ''direct action'' grants to carbon emitters is as much about the environment as it is the businesses that benefit. It's the same with the $5.5 billion a year private health insurance rebate. It's about patients as well as funds.
Government support for business is as hard to escape as to quantify.
The Australia Institute says the mining industry receives $4.5 billion a year in subsidies and tax concessions, half of it from fuel subsidies. The Productivity Commission comes up with a lower total - $700 million a year.
The motor vehicles industry costs $621 million, plus $785 million in tariffs. Food manufacture costs relatively little in grants and concessions ($45 million and $62 million) but a whopping $1.7 billion in tariffs.
All up, the Productivity Commission says, Australian governments deliver $10 billion per year in industry support.
An end to support would be something to see. But we're nowhere near it and we probably never will be.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article stated that the motor vehicles industry tariffs cost $785 billion.