Federal Shadow Minister for Business Development Luke Hartsuyker (left) at Permo-Drive's head office in Ballina.
Federal Shadow Minister for Business Development Luke Hartsuyker (left) at Permo-Drive's head office in Ballina. The Northern Star

Buck-passing heats up on Permo-Drive

FINGERS are being pointed in the heat of a political row over who is to blame for the looming collapse of Permo-Drive.

The Ballina business needs at least $7.5 million to keep it afloat and will go into voluntary receivership on Monday if it doesn't get the money.

But as time is running out and last-ditch efforts to attract funding or investors are being made, the Federal Government's axing of the Commercial Ready grants program is being blamed for the sticky situation Permo-Drive and its 1900 shareholders are in.

On a visit to the plant at Ballina, Federal Shadow Minister for Business Development Luke Hartsuyker pointed the finger at the Rudd Government and Federal Page MP Janelle Saffin, saying their 'arrogance' had left mum and dad investors 'high and dry'.

However, Ms Saffin hit back at the claims yesterday, saying that Permo-Drive had not applied for a Commercial Ready grant and, even if it had, there was no guarantee it would have been successful.

“Permo-Drive has advised me that despite Mr Hartsuyker's claims, they had not made any application under the previous government's Commercial Ready scheme,” Ms Saffin said.

“I have to ask, what did Luke Hartsuyker do to support Permo-Drive and the mum and dad investors in his six years in government?”

Ms Saffin said Permo-Drive had been in talks with the Federal Government over access to new Climate Ready grants.

“Following my office being contacted by shareholders I made contact with Permo-Drive and made it clear I'd be happy to meet with them at any time,” she said.

“I've spoken to CEO Colin Henson and chief engineer Chris Marshall about the company's situation. If Permo-Drive applies for the Climate Ready Scheme, like all applicants they will be assessed on their merits.”

Permo-Drive has spent eight years developing its Regenerative Drive fuel conservation system at a cost of about $25 million.

The system, which Permo-Drive said was on the verge of commercialisation, was expected to deliver major benefits to the heavy vehicle industry by reducing diesel use by 20 to 30 per cent.

Permo-Drive managing director John Thompson said shareholders had reacted with 'shock, horror and amazement that something so promising could get to this point'.

“There is still an opportunity for someone to make a lot of money out of this ... (if we fold) it's likely someone overseas will buy the idea, or even worse, it will just be lost altogether,” he said.

Mr Hartsuyker said he would approach the Prime Minister in a bid for the Government to support Permo-Drive and bring back the Commercial Ready program.



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