Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie has welcomed the announcement of a special high-level taskforce to investigate assistance for SPC Ardmona by Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane this morning.
The panel comprises Ms Catherine Livingstone AO, Mr Richard (Dick) Warburton AO LVO and the Hon Greg Combet AM.
The taskforce, which has already met, will provide independent advice to the Minister regarding assistance to SPC Ardmona.
Senator McKenzie said she hoped the taskforce would make recommendations to the Minister by Christmas, given the urgency of the situation
‘‘Many growers have been forced to pull up their trees and others are assessing the viability of their businesses as we speak,’’ she said.
Senator McKenzie said the taskforce signified the Coalition Government’s commitment to sustainable and productive Australian food manufacturing.
‘‘Agribusinesses like SPC Ardmona will be critical to continued growth in the Australian economy, with a recent Deloitte report indicating agribusiness, along with other key industries had the potential to add $250 billion to the economy between now and 2033,’’ she said.
Senator McKenzie said while the recent Productivity Commission decision regarding the application of safeguards for imported fruit products was disappointing, the Anti-Dumping Commission’s decision to recommend tariffs had given growers and manufacturers encouragement.
Announcements by both major supermarkets that they would source Australian fruit for their private label brands were similarly encouraging, Senator McKenzie said.
‘‘SPC, like many other Australian manufacturers, is facing significant challenges including a high dollar, cheap imports and increasing energy costs,’’ she said.
‘‘SPC is a critical part of the Goulburn Valley economy, with Essential Economics modelling showing that if SPC Ardmona closed, the region would lose 2000 jobs and $165million a year from the economy,’’ she said.
Senator McKenzie said food processing was an important contributor to the national economy and employed more than 300,000 people across Australia, with more than half of those jobs located in the regions.
‘‘We must do everything possible to ensure high quality food processing remains a key driver of the Goulburn Valley community.’’
Media contact: Kathleen Tonini 0400530027