EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Issues for the forthcoming election
, October 20, 2001
The announcement by Prime Minister, John Howard, of a Federal Election on November 10, was overshadowed by the commencement of Allied attacks on Taliban sites in Afghanistan, and the reprisals threatened by terrorist chief, Osama bin Laden.
The war on terrorism has undoubtedly become a significant issue in the forthcoming election campaign - which is not surprising, although both the Government and Opposition are completely united in support for the USA, following the suicide bombings of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, on September 11.
As far as the military operations are concerned, early reports indicate that the aerial bombing had destroyed not only Taliban aircraft and air strips, but also ammunition and fuel dumps, as well as communication facilities which the Taliban has used to maintain its control over the unfortunate people of Afghanistan.
While the Taliban, as expected, claimed civilian casualties in the air attacks, all the evidence points to the pin-point bombing being directed against military targets only.
Additionally, Tajikistan and Jordan joined other Islamic countries - Pakistan, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Turkey and Saudi Arabia - in offering facilities to Allied forces involved in the operations.
Attempts by bin Laden to mobilise the Islamic world to conduct a jihad (Muslim holy war) against the West have failed, and the ground has been laid for the Afghan Northern Alliance, which controls the north-east of the country, to conduct ground attacks to capture the Afghan capital of Kabul.
The unanswered question is whether a united government can be created if the Taliban is defeated, capable of ending the chronic civil war which has bled the country white over the past 20 years.
Important though this is, it will have little bearing on Australia's future direction after the election on November 10.
The issues which Australia will have to face alone include the requirement for substantially increased defence spending, not only to enable Australia to play a role in crises such as Afghanistan, and sustain existing deployments in East Timor and Bougainville, but to address the ongoing problem of boat people attempting to enter Australia from Indonesia.Domestic issues
Separately, there is the problem of the surging $317 billion national debt,
which will undoubtedly worsen as a result of the collapse in commodity prices in recent weeks.
For the past year, the Australian dollar has collapsed under the weight of the foreign debt, and unless something is done, it will inexorably slide lower.
The danger of the growing foreign debt was confirmed by reports of leading financial institutions like the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC); the US financial giant Solomon Smith Barney/Citibank; and USB Warburg (AFR
, October 26, 2000). They said that debt has seen a loss of confidence by the international financial markets in Australia and caused the Australian dollar to sink to record lows.
A government intent on rescuing Australia's economy would immediately impose a primage
(uniform import duty) on imports, something clearly permitted under WTO rules.
It would further establish a new Commonwealth-style bank,
like that which exists in the German Reconstruction (KfW) Bank, to meet the problem that many farmers and small businesses are paying 9-13% interest on their borrowings, once fees and charges are included.
Governments concerned about our precarious economy would also give preference to Australian-owned companies
in relation to purchases and contracts, which are currently estimated to be worth $60 billion a year.
If actively pursued, government contracts and rebuilding of the defence forces would give a substantial boost to local manufacturing industry, which has fallen from a quarter of the economy thirty years ago, to just 13 per cent today.
This would be assisted by an overhaul of anti-dumping laws
and an end to the failed National Competition experiment.
The restoration of manufacturing to the average of the advanced economies of the OECD would lift manufacturing to over 19 per cent of GDP, creating over $35 billion in extra output, leading to the employment of an additional 500,000 Australians in manufacturing alone. Our foreign debt would be falling, instead of growing.
To meet the pressing needs of families, government policies should support a direct payment to full-time homemakers,
particularly those caring for young children.
So far, none of the major parties has said much about any
of these issues. The paradox is that they seem committed to the failed economic theories of globalism and are beholden to the failed social agenda of radical feminism.Not only are the alternative policies sound, but the evidence suggests that they would be vote-winners, as well.
If Australia is to have an international role, it will have to put its own house in order: meet the pressing needs of families, restore manufacturing, and address our surging foreign debt.
- Peter Westmore is President of the National Civic Council