DEPUTY Premier Peter Ryan has hit back at criticism from a high-ranking Liberal figure who claims the Napthine government is engaging in wanton spending.
Outspoken Liberal grandee Peter Reith blasted his party’s decision to provide $1.5 million in state funding to Warrnambool’s Midfield Meat, calling for the Victorian government to take a more monetarist approach.
Mr Reith said state assistance for expansion projects at Midfield, Australian Lamb Colac and Camperdown district meat producer Koallah Farms were unwise and contradicted calls for financial restraint from Canberra.
In an opinion piece published in today’s edition of The Standard, the former Howard government minister called for all state governments to “stop wasting taxpayers’ money” and labelled Victoria’s SPC intervention an “absurd spectacle”.
The Deputy Premier said he disagreed strongly with Mr Reith’s monetarist position adding all businesses offered state assistance were in a prime position to generate sustainable employment.
“What Peter Reith fails to recognise is the reality of running a business,” Mr Ryan said. “He fails to recognise that in a global economy we have these opportunities and the state government needs to invest in them.
“SPC in Shepparton is an example of the state government investing in a clean, green product that will create jobs and support a whole industry.
“What Mr Reith is also forgetting is that while the state government is contributing $22 million, Coca-Cola Amatil is providing more than $70 million towards (the SPC project) which will be hugely productive for that region and Victoria as well.”
Mr Ryan said the state Coalition was united on the issue of government assistance to business, adding the $1.5 million for Midfield was a worthwhile investment.
“Peter (Reith’s) time has come and gone. It doesn’t represent the views of the state government,” the Deputy Premier said.
Mr Reith, who served as Liberal Party deputy leader under John Hewson in the 1990s, has owned a farm near Camperdown for a number of years.
“The Victorian Liberals should scrap the deals they have with the Nationals to sprinkle taxpayer monies around the state to buy votes,” Mr Reith wrote in the opinion piece for Fairfax Media.
“When the details of a very generous payout to (Midfield) was revealed, the payout was justified because Labor had done the same thing.
“The fact that Labor wastes money is no reason for the Liberals to do the same.”