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Australia PM stands firm against 'corporate welfare'

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned struggling Australian companies Wednesday to get their house in order, refusing to indulge in "corporate welfare" subsidies despite car giant Holden's decision to shut local plants.

The manufacturing sector has battled rising costs and a strong Australian dollar, with General Motors subsidiary Holden saying last week it would stop making cars in Australia by 2017, seven months after Ford announced its exit.

Abbott said Australia had a strong manufacturing sector and there would be no handouts, as he announced a Aus$100 million (US$89 million) fund to support those regions hurt by the Holden wind down.

"No country has ever subsidised its way to prosperity," Abbott said, making clear his administration would be loathe to do for companies in trouble "the sorts of things they ought to be doing for themselves".

Abbott said he would say the same thing to any Australian company, be they food processing company Ardmona or the national airline Qantas which has complained about foreign ownership restrictions.

"You've got to get your house in order. Government support cannot substitute for strong management. And strong management in a company under pressure starts with getting your costs down," he said.

Abbott said the government would attempt to get the basics for corporations right through lower taxes, less regulation, higher productivity and an overall environment of steady, reliable and competent government.

But he added: "We don't want to see corporate welfare, what we want to see is a country that has got the economic fundamentals right.

"We're not here to sort of build a field of dreams. We are here to make sensible, economically responsible decisions, we are here to exercise very careful stewardship over taxpayers money."

The prime minister said he would chair a taskforce aimed at helping create jobs as the decade-long mineral and resources boom slows.

"Transitioning from heavy industrial manufacturing to higher value added production calls for a national, strategic response rather than a piecemeal one based on handouts and subsidies," Abbott said.

The Aus$100 million fund announced Wednesday would support business and research and development as well as Holden workers affected by the closure of the iconic carmaker.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/131218/australia-pm-stands-firm-against-corporate-welfare