March 24th 2001


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Britain's foot and mouth outbreak - the global link

EDITORIAL: The challenge facing John Howard

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Can Howard "placate the crocodile"?

LAW: US rejects International Criminal Court

Straws in the Wind

FAMILY: Senators oppose Howard IVF amendment

THE MEDIA

LETTERS

COMMENT: Humane economy v. the bottom line

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: How closer Asian ties benefit Australia

EDUCATION: New assessment can mean almost anything

ECONOMICS: China's slow progress on WTO entry

HONG KONG: Has democracy a future in Hong Kong?

SCIENCE: Human cloning attempt roundly condemned

COMMENT: What would a right-wing Philippa Adams look like?

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LETTERS


by Ross Lightfoot, Peter Townsend

News Weekly, March 24, 2001
Woodside

Sir,

The hostile takeover by Shell is not unusual in contemporary, international, aggressive companies, except for the following: Shell is a gargantuan company, with $300 billion turnover and a latest year-ended profit of $24.8 billion; a turnover greater than the GDP of all but a handful of the nations of the world.

Once a company is caught up in the tentacles of the Anglo-Dutch giant it vanishes forever - not even an empty carapace remains when it is discarded.

Woodside is a non-predatory micro-example of Shell - it is our greatest petroleum/gas producer, with their North West Shelf Project contributing 1.2% of GDP, it has a turnover of $2.4 billion and a most recently reported profit of $967 million.

Woodside is not in the same mould as Arnott's, Speedo, Vegemite, Edgell, Birdseye, Cottee's, MacRobertson chocolates, or even Holden that have gone overseas (with the exception of Holden) in post-war years; it is the only major, in fact, the biggest homegrown resource company in the nation. It has in its control, the most strategic, essential commodities that all advanced nations need on which to prosper - oil and gas.

The paradox of an advanced, enviably stable country like Australia, is based on its GDP and its per capita income. These figures are in turn dependent on as much as practicable of resource profits - this non-renewable resource profits - staying in Australia in order to re-invest in renewable industries for the time when, inevitably, these resource products are exhausted.

The paradox is that, as economically viable mines and gas/petroleum fields are exhausted, our dollar is worth less.

Similarly, as major Australian companies are acquired by overseas corporations and profits flow there, instead of remaining in Australia, the company is, in effect, similar to a depleting asset.

It matters not a jot what stringent conditions are placed on the unfriendly takeover of Woodside by the Anglo-Dutch giant. One such condition cannot be that all profits remain in Australia.

A weak dollar makes predatory attacks on Australia's remaining companies inevitable.

RTZ owns most of our iron ore exports, Alcoa our alumina, BP/Shell/Mobil our gas and oil (in fact, 92% of recoverable gas reserves in Australia will be owned by overseas companies if Shell succeeds with its takeover).

The Argyle Diamond Mine, the biggest in the world, is now owned jointly overseas.

Selling our non-renewable commodities is not like selling the farm - we could always buy the farm back and then grow a crop; with mineral resources (apart from salt) once we deplete our minerals, they are gone forever.

Most of us value the contribution that responsible multinationals make to our development - it is essential to maintain our enviable lifestyle, but as a person who takes very seriously the representation of Western Australia in Canberra, I would be fraudulent if I did not react and rail against the barter of Woodside to the Anglo-Dutch leviathan, for not cash but paper.

Australians will inevitably become weaker for disposing of this asset to foreign ownership.

Ross Lighfoot,
Senator for Western Australia,
Canbera, ACT

One Nation

Sir,

The article by Thomas Bradley "Nationals: The last hurrah?" (News Weekly, March 10, 2001) is sadly lacking in understanding of the people who support One Nation and Pauline Hanson and ultimately Australia as we would prefer it.

One Nation's objective in relation to the National Party is not to destroy it as quoted in the article - the Nationals appear very capable of achieving this by themselves.

Their objective in relation to any of the other political parties is to achieve representation for the million people who voted for One Nation at the last Federal election. This can only be done by swapping preferences in various seats that suit such a strategy.

For the two major parties to put One Nation last, is in the end political suicide for many, many good politicians.

One Nation does not concede any inadequacies in its policies as stated by Thomas Bradley.

One Nation at this point in time has no aspirations to rule this country, but it does crave the right to stop the destruction caused by the lack of back-bone displayed by the members of the major parties.

Thomas Bradley says One Nation cannot be the answer, its program would only complete the destruction of what it means to be Australian.

Absolute garbage.

The One Nation supporters whom I have encountered are open and generous and are seeing the Australia that they love slip away - and 30 per cent of these supporters weren't born here.

Peter Townsend,
South Penrith, NSW




























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