INDUSTRY POLICY: by Ernest RodeckNews Weekly
Ten point plan for industry recovery
, May 6, 2000
Ernest Rodeck is President of the Society for Australian Industry and Employment. He was founder of Fler Furniture, a former Managing Director of Pacific Dunlop General Products and is President of the Australian Institute of Management.
In 1985, Australia decided it would lead the world in moving to free trade. Quotas were abandoned, tariffs and other import barriers were dramatically reduced, well ahead of other countries.
Like the "German Miracle" that transformed Germany after World War II, this move was expected to make Australia the most successful country on earth.
It would generate unprecedented improvements in Australia's international trading position. Large, internationally competitive, new industries would spring up and unemployment would be eliminated.
Unfortunately, the reality has been quite different. Australia's manufacture has declined from 24 to 13 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and unemployment has remained unacceptably high.
If you take off your raincoat, while the others leave their's on until the rain stops, you'll get wet and they will stay dry. If you drop import barriers ahead of the others, you get flooded with imports, and can't increase your exports enough to pay for the extra imports.
Of course we cannot undo what was done. But we can greatly improve our situation without breaking international rules and undertakings.
The Society for Australian Industry and Employment recently launched a ten-point plan to boost Australian industry.
The plan was launched by Sir Rupert Hamer, the former Premier of Victoria and now patron of the Society for Australian Industry and Employment (SAIE), and Martin Feil, a Sydney consultant economist, former Director of the Industry Commission and the SAIE's deputy president.
Sir Rupert said that free trade had brought some "economic benefits ... but there is a downside, and we have not so far given it sufficient attention.
For many Australians, and many communities, the results have been disastrous, and there is a looming overall problem, which it is the object of the SAIE to tackle.
"How much longer can we expect to live high on the national Visa Card?"
The SAIE's ten point plan for industry includes:
* Creation of a National Development Authority, which would provide specific assistance measures for each industry, and uniform standards of packaging, codes of conduct and environmental safeguards across Australia;
* Legislation to permit fast and effective measures to counter unfair trade (e.g. dumping);
* A government funded "Made in Australia" campaign, with government purchasing leading by example, and incentives to add value to exports;
* Improved education, aligned to expected future demands for a skilled workforce, which can build industries capable of matching imports, and winning export markets;
* Ensuring the tax burden is fairly shared by multinational corporations operating in Australia;
* Inclusion of minimum working condition standards in international agreements;
* Replacing payroll tax with a general import revenue duty; and
* A mechanism to balance international cash flows and control currency manipulation.