STATE MEMBER FOR MALVERN
SHADOW TREASURER

Portfolio Speeches

Doorstop: Assistance for SPC Ardmona, paramedics’ EBA, gaming license court action, Ken Smith

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

The people of the Goulburn Valley need the Napthine Government to work with the company, with the community, to deliver a real outcome to secure the future of SPC Ardmona. That’s what they’re getting from the Napthine Government. What Mr Andrews is offering, frankly, it’s typical Labor. Spend now, ask questions later. He’s offered $30 million that he doesn’t have for a plan that he doesn’t know about. We have worked with the company: the Premier was up in Shepparton on Friday, we’re meeting with the company again this week to work out a plan and a strategy to secure the company and to help save those jobs. It requires thought, it requires hard work and it requires real commitment. All Mr Andrews is offering is a Tattslotto ticket for nine months’ time. That won’t save a single job.

The company’s already made clear it will be making a decision in February or March about the future of the company and the restructuring. That’s why Shepparton needs real people with a real commitment to the region who represent the area now to work with the company to secure this outcome. Not typical Labor ‘spend now, ask questions later’ and have a huge price-tag with no plan attached. This is really a hoax from Labor on the people of the Goulburn Valley. The Coalition Government is committed to the Valley, we’re going to make sure we work with the company, with the community and get the right outcome.

REPORTER:

So a piece of political grandstanding from the Opposition Leader?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Oh look, Mr Andrews isn’t Premier. The election’s not until nine months and the company’s going to make a decision in a matter of weeks. That’s why the Coalition Government is working with the company and with the community. It’s why we’ve already put $4.4 million on the table and we’re working with the company now to work out what further co-

investments might be appropriate. The last thing you want to do is spend money without any plan attached. That’s bad for taxpayers and it won’t help the people of Shepparton.

REPORTER:

Surely some money on the table from the Government, though, wouldn’t harm the decision-making process from SPC?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Well, the Coalition Government has already got the money on the table for the company and for the people of Shepparton and we’re willing and we are working with the company to work out if any further co-investment is needed. But the plan, which was originally put forward by the company, is now off the table. So Mr Andrews has committed a huge amount of taxpayers’ money without any plan attached. That’s not sensible, that’s just political grandstanding on his part. The people of Shepparton deserve better and that’s why the Coalition Government is working with the company, with the community, to make sure we can get the right outcome.

REPORTER:

Treasurer, will you have a plan before the February 18 board meeting of SPC Ardmona? Will there be a Coalition plan on the table?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

We are working with the company. As I said, the Premier met with the company on Friday. He’s meeting again with them this week.

REPORTER:

So [inaudible] timeframe on that. Do you hope to have one before that board meeting?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

We certainly expect that the company and the Government will work together to establish a strategy for working out how we can best secure the future of SPC Ardmona. It’s a very important company, it’s an important employer and that’s why we’ve been working day and night on doing the hard work to get a strategy in place, rather than just travelling up from the city and making some announcement about what you might do in nine months’ time.

REPORTER:

Will that strategy include more money?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Well, there are a number of different ways that we can look to assist SPC Ardmona. We do, as the Premier said, we want to encourage people to make sure they do, when they have a choice, buy the local product. It’s a great product, it helps secure a Victorian company and Victorian jobs. We’re also working through our trade missions to try and expend export opportunities for Victorian exporters, including SPC and we’ve already got significant amounts of money on the table, but we’ll make sure it’s part of a strategic plan that can make sure that we get the right outcome to secure jobs and secure the future of the Goulburn Valley.

REPORTER:

Has the company [inaudible]?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Well, we’ll work with the company, we’ll talk with the company and we’ll see what sort of strategies we can come up with together. We’re certainly not going to commit a blank cheque without a plan attached, which is what Labor’s done today. Typical Labor fashion, spend now, spend money you don’t have, and ask questions about where it goes later on.

REPORTER:

Would you commit the whole $50 million if the terms and conditions were the same as what was discussed with the Federal Government?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

I think I made clear on Friday that the State Government isn’t in a position to pick up the slack of the Federal Government. We don’t have the same financial wherewithal as the Federal Government, so obviously our financial commitments need to be considered in that context.

But we’ve already had $4.4 million on the table for the company specifically; $5 million for the Goulburn Valley infrastructure fund and we’re willing to work with the company to see if there is an appropriate level of investment – co-investment – that can be made. But it has to be a realistic level.

REPORTERS:

Are the workers over-paid?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Look, I think that’s very much a matter for the company’s management and the workers and their representatives to determine what’s a fair bargain. Obviously, everyone needs to be paid a fair wage and we have no problem with people being paid a fair wage.

REPORTERS:

So not $50 million, but you’re not ruling out some extra money?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

No, well, we’ve said we will work with the company and if there is a strong case that can be made for a really strategic co-investment that would secure jobs, then we will certainly be willing to consider that. But we’re not going to turn up to the Goulburn Valley with a blank cheque, without a plan attached, which is what Labor has done.

REPORTERS:

You just said that $50 million was unreasonable to ask for from the State Government, but surely there’s money left that had been put aside for Ford and Holden. Could that be transferred over and used for SPC?


MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Look, we need to make sure if we’re co-investing taxpayers’ money we getting a fair outcome. I have made the point that Coca-Cola Amatil made, I think, a profit for six months of $216 million. The entire Victorian state budget surplus for the year is $222 million. So, they are a large company and they’ve got deep pockets and they bear primary responsibility for managing their own business.

But where we think, as a state government, we can lend support, and it’s strategic support and it secures jobs, we’re very happy to work hard with the company to see if we can do that.

REPORTERS:

Could Labor’s announcement potentially cost the Government the support of voters in the Goulburn Valley coming up to the election?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

I think that people in the Goulburn Valley will remember that it was the Labor Party that wanted to pipe water from across the Dividing Range; they’ll remember that it was the Labor Party, in government, that tried to put a toxic waste dump in the food bowl of northern Victoria. They know that Labor’s no friend of agricultural regions in northern Victoria. They know that we’ve actually got money on the table now and we’re working with the company now to make sure we can get a strategy in place to secure those jobs for the future.

REPORTERS:

Just on a separate issue: there are claims the talks with paramedics have broken down. Has the government removed its offer?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

The government’s offer is on the table. It’s a very fair one; it’s a more than fair offer. It involves a 12 per cent pay rise, a $1500 sign-on bonus and we’ve said, where there are issues that can’t be resolved, we’re happy for that to go to Fair Work and be decided by the independent umpire.

It’s extremely fair and we’re disappointed the paramedics’ union has decided to take a political decision ... they seem to prefer a political fight to securing a good industrial outcome for their membership.

REPORTERS:

Just on Tatts and Tabcorp – they’re in court today – are you confident the Government will be able to defend that claim over the pokie licences?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Since it’s before the courts, it’s not appropriate for me to comment, other than to say the Government has put in a very strong defence of its position.

REPORTERS:

Just on another matter: two bidders have been named for Shell’s operations in Australia. One of them has signalled that it will look to close the Geelong refinery. What are your comments on that and have you met with any of the groups that’ll [inaudible]?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

I haven’t personally; I’m not aware of it. It’s obviously ... it’s not a government asset. Shell’s a private company, it’s their private assets. But we have spoken with Shell regularly and we have made clear our position that our strong preference is that Shell would sell that refinery as a going concern to try and secure employment outcomes in Geelong.

REPORTERS:

Would you urge the bidders to reconsider their position and try and keep the refinery? MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

We’d certainly encourage anyone looking to take on that asset to try and keep it operating as a going concern. We think it’s important for our energy security and also important for local employment outcomes.

REPORTERS:

What do you think Ken Smith should do tomorrow?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

Ken Smith has been a terrific servant of the parliament; he’s been there for 25 years. He’s worked for his electorate incredibly hard in that period. He’s announced he’s not going on as Member for Bass at the end of the year and we’ll find out tomorrow what his plans are for the rest of the year. REPORTERS:

Have you had any talks with him, or any idea what he’s going to do?

MICHAEL O’BRIEN:

No. I haven’t spoken with Mr Speaker. I’m sure he’ll let us all know when he takes the Chair at two o’clock tomorrow, but whatever he does decide, I think he’s done a very good job in really difficult circumstances and circumstances made much tougher by a pretty juvenile and petulant campaign of civil disobedience by the Labor Party who still can’t understand how they lost the last election.

Contact Michael
Michael O'Brien MP

313 Waverley Road
MALVERN EAST VIC 3145

Phone: (03) 9576 1850
Fax: (03) 9576 1849


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