Prime Minister Tony Abbott faces a strong accusation of lying to the whole nation as he put SPC Ardmona workers in bad light. The government refused to allot $25 million to SPC Ardmona for reasons that the company's workplace agreement with the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union was somewhat dubious - questionable wet allowances, loadings on overtime, ability to cash out sick pay and redundancy payouts of up to two years.
MP Sharman Stone shall not let this pass.
In an interview with Nine Network, Ms Stone was insistent.
"I don't resile for a second for saying that the information the PM gave at the press conference following the cabinet decision was not true,'' she told the Nine network this morning. And 'not true' equals 'could be called a lie' - absolutely. I am sending this press release from SPC Ardmona issued today which restates the facts about their workers allowances and wages. The Prime Minister said in his press conference after the cabinet decision that if SPCA 'had its house in order' in relation to wages and conditions, he might reconsider their plight. Given SPCA's press release repeats my explanations and shows that they have already tackled wages and conditions, I am now asking cabinet to reconsider its decision not to support the Australian industry.''
On Tuesday, Ms Stone came strong in her interview with ABC radio as she accused Mr Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey of hypocrisy.
''It's really deeply disappointing to me when I see more and more of these furphies rolled out to try and blacken the character of the workers themselves and the business. That sort of stuff is deeply hurtful. What it is saying is that the workers themselves, the 750 left ... they're responsible for the death of the industry. This seemed to be a convenient way to draw a line in the sand to accuse this company [SPC] of being destroyed by unions and outrageous wages,'' she said.
On Wednesday, frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull came in Mr Abbott's defence and said that Mr Abbott is not known of lying, not to him in as far as he knows.
When asked by Fairfax Radio in Brisbane if he thinks Tony Abbott is a liar, Mr Turnbull was quick to answer.
''Absolutely not. He's an absolute straight shooter. Never lied to me, no.''
In all fairness, Mr Turnbull said that Ms Stone might only be at heat of the moment and said things that she did not mean.
"...in passionate times, people say passionate things. And sometimes they're not as well considered as they should be," Mr Turnbull said of Ms Stone.
He said nice things about Ms Stone as she is his good friend and good colleague.
Independent MP Cathy McGowan, meanwhile, praised Ms Stone, saying that other MPs should be as passionate as her during debates like this.
''It is exactly what politics should be about. I love that Sharman is a member of the Liberal party and she is able to get up there and have feisty debate with everybody else about what needs to happen. She wasn't put down, she stood up, she's carrying the flag for her people, she's exactly what we want people to do. I think it's such a bad thing to close down debate and what I saw happening was people blaming the workers, or putting blame on people where it didn't belong. That's not the issue. The issue is the future of manufacturing and food production in Australia,'' she said.
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