Safeguard spuds to save Aussie industry, jobs

17 October 2013: KAP Federal Leader and Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has called on the Federal Government to implement emergency safeguards to save Australian industry and jobs, after McCain’s announced yesterday it will close its South Australian potato processing plant in December this year.

With nearly 90 McCain employees losing their jobs at the Penola plant, the company is blaming the closure on the flood of cheap imported products coupled with high electricity and labour costs.

“It now appears that McCain, Birdseye and SPC Ardmona are on the verge of rolling up their swags. There will be no food processing in Australia so everything you buy in a packet, bag or tin will be imported from overseas.

“The closure of McCain’s potato factory is another nail in the coffin of Australian jobs and industry, joining a string of food processing closures including the Rosella tomato soup and sauce factory and Heinz factories; with SPC in the Goulburn Valley and Simplot factories struggling to survive.

Mr Katter understands that processed potato imports have jumped from 10,000 tonnes to more than 130,000 tonnes being ‘dumped’ in Australia, below cost.

“The previous ALP Federal Government did absolutely nothing to support Australian food producers.

“It is imperative that the LNP Federal Government together with the Federal Minister for Agriculture immediately impose upon food imports the World Trade Organisation provision for temporary emergency tariffs.

“Temporary tariffs need to be immediately enforced on the flood of cheap imports which are squeezing locals off the shelves and threatening the viability of Australian food producers,” said Mr Katter.

Mr Katter backed Managing Director of SPC Ardmona, Peter Kelly’s calls that Government-owned agencies such as prisons, the army and hospitals should be buying exclusively Australian produced and processed food.

“These Government-owned agencies are amongst the biggest importers of processed food, and they should be instructed to buy and support Australian goods,” Mr Katter said.