Locals come first: Chester

FEDERAL Government funding is warranted in individual circumstances, Gippsland’s Federal Member of Parliament, Darren Chester said following the SPC Ardmona debate.

The comments follow the Cabinet decision to reject the Shepparton food processor’s request for $25 million in taxpayer assistance to upgrade its local plant.

Mr Chester said the SPC example was a “hard one” for government because the parent company was “obviously very successful”.

The Nationals member said Coca Cola Amatil, the owner of SPC Ardmona, had a better budget bottom line than the government.

Mr Chester said he understood why the Prime Minister and treasurer had made the argument the company was in a better position to fund the work than the Federal Government, because it would need to borrow money to give to SPC.

“The government does believe in individual circumstances. There will be circumstances where the government funding is warranted to support the creation of jobs in circumstances where it cannot be obtained in any other way,” Mr Chester said.

He agreed if a manufacturing business in the Latrobe Valley was in the same situation as SPC, he would represent the community and push for its interests. Mr Chester said the primary purpose of a local member is to represent its companies and put the strongest case forward for its constituents.

“I understand why Sharman Stone has represented the case on behalf of local residents because she talks to people there on a daily basis and understands their concerns,” he said.

“At the same time the Federal Treasurer has a responsibility to the whole nation to make decisions with the Cabinet in the interest of the Australian community.”

Media had reported Dr Stone had written to the Prime Minister urging him to reconsider the Cabinet decision, and cited the personal impact on families in an email to party room colleagues.

“I do not intend to speak in the media about the suicides and attempted suicides now occurring particularly among the orchardists, and for the sake of the families I will not talk about them publicly,” she said in the email.

“But believe me the loss of the last Australian fruit processor would be a human as well as a regional economic and national tragedy.”

Mr Chester said Dr Stone was right to draw attention to the human element of the debate.

“There’s very much a human dimension to this debate where she would be approached by people in the street raising the issue with her,” Mr Chester said.

“So I can understand fully the approach Sharman has taken to present her views strongly as she possibly can.”