In a media release today NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has slammed a multi-million dollar investment by the Berejiklian Government and local member Andrew Constance into a single oyster firm as a “scandalous betrayal” of local businesses.
Speaking in Bega today Mr Foley said the $3.3 million purchase of a stake in Australian Oyster Coast in May this year put other local oyster farmers at an unfair disadvantage.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro announced the investment but it was revealed in Budget Estimates in State Parliament this week that it had the full support of local MP Andrew Constance (see Hansard below).
The decision to pick a winner rather than support the community with an industry-wide grant has angered local oyster growers who rightly say the Berejiklian Government is distorting the market and playing favourites. It is understood that NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet will be requesting a briefing on the government's multimillion-dollar investment in in light of oyster farmers preparing to challenge the decision. “This is a scandalous betrayal of South Coast oyster farmers. Andrew Constance is up to his neck in it. He supports funnelling millions of taxpayer dollars into a single company chaired by Liberal Party mates at the expense of local farmers." NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley It has been reported that at least five rival oyster farms now want the matter investigated by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal suggesting the government may have breached its own competitive neutrality policy.
AOC has been loss-making for two years and is chaired by a Liberal Party luminary, David Trebeck, who was a senior strategist for the Liberals and one of the architects of the Howard Government’s controversial waterfront dispute. The SMH reports "In a since-deleted statement posted to the company's website in 2017, Mr Trebeck revealed the company had made a loss for the two previous years. The website appears to have been wiped of content in the past week."
On the issue Labor Candidate for Bega Leanne Atkinson said “Andrew Constance should put the interests of local businesses ahead of one company that is run by Liberal Party mates. As a former Treasurer he would know how these things are done so he can’t wash his hands of the affair and say that he didn’t know what impact it would have on the local community.” Mr Foley made the comments on a visit to Bega Hospital where he was announcing Labor’s policy to introduce nurse to patient ratios in the state’s hospitals – a move that will improve patient care.