Tony Abbott says no to bludging

Tony Abbott is signalling the end of bludging, especially corporate bludging in Australia.

Australia’s rent seekers are firmly on notice: it is the end of corporate welfare. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has never been so direct: no government has ever subsidised its way to prosperity, he declared, adding a good kick from his R.M. Williams boot to the stupidity of ”knee-jerk piecemeal deals”.

What a difference a few months makes. During the election campaign, Abbott flew to Tasmania and blithely handed a gift of $16 million to the Cadbury chocolate factory. Cadbury is owned by a multinational firm that had reported a 64 per cent rise in its profit to $74.9 million last year.

Abbott at the time argued that Tasmania had been ”left behind, big time” on almost all economic measures, and his was a pragmatic approach to a special case in aid of ”job, jobs and jobs”.

It was, of course, an election campaign, and Abbott, who was not yet prime minister, had his eye on a number of juicy Tasmanian seats. You could call his gift politically pragmatic, but you could also call it corporate welfare and a campaign-motivated knee-jerk piecemeal deal.

Now that he is Prime Minister and a vastly bigger company, GM Holden, has announced its decision to quit Australia, Abbott has seized the opportunity to return to what has been his reasonably consistent theme about corporate welfare – if you ignore the Cadbury deal. Faced with a ballooning deficit, Abbott needed to elucidate a coherent approach. With Holden going, Qantas is also knocking on the government’s door for assistance. So is SPC Ardmona.

”We’re not here to sort of build a field of dreams,” the Prime Minister offered. He had the same sort of message for SPC Ardmona that he had delivered to Qantas: get your own house in order.

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