Australia's sovereignty (letter)by Colin TeeseNews Weekly
, June 5, 2004
John Barich has entered your letter columns (News Weekly
, May 22) with a comment on my article about sovereignty (May 8). I am grateful to Mr Barich for bringing this subject in the debating arena, and let us hope his will not be the only comment.
Mr Barich has covered a number of areas I did not touch upon in my article. As to the political and military considerations, I will leave others to debate those with Mr Barich. I prefer to comment on the more general question of sovereignty which arose from my consideration of the Australia-US Free Trade Agreement.
There is, in my opinion, no distinction to be made between economic and any other sort of sovereignty. There is only sovereignty. Thus defined, sovereignty is the capacity of the elected government's power to do anything, and to legislate to do anything, within the law. And we cannot be too careful in taking policy options which limit the powers of the governments to introduce or change any aspect of how we relate to each other, or the rest of the world.
This is what we risk doing with AUSFTA. Suppose, for example, we want at some future time to resuscitate manufacturing industry by giving special concessions to locally-owned companies. AUSFTA will not allow us to do it. Now, that may not be in our minds now, but it could be later. Of course, there is provision for disengaging from the agreement, but years down the track that may turn out to be no more than a theoretical possibility. We will have tied our own hands.
Let me illustrate with the example of Britain and the EU. In 1972 Britain signed the Treaty of Rome and became a member-state of what is now the EU. The reasons for joining then, which included Cold War considerations, seemed to make sense, but now I wonder whether the British feel the same way. At least some - maybe most - don't.
Theoretically, they could give the required notice and leave. But in practice they can't, because they are too closely integrated into Europe.
The same risk applies to us if we tie ourselves too closely into the US. We can't tell what the future might hold. The arrangements we make now might not suit our interests 30 years from now.Colin Teese,