January 26th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

Cover Story: The magic of Middle Earth

Editorial: Argentina - from role model to basket case

Al Qaeda network must be destroyed

Policy not structure the problem for National Party

Industry policy behind Celtic Tiger's success

Straws in the Wind: Great Helmsmen: past and present / A tale of two branches

Anti-war protests leave Melbourne cold

Media: When the Left calls for time-out

Letter: Exports and imports

Letter: Alcohol abuse

Trade: APEC’s demise paves the way for China’s free trade pact

United States: Year of the Right?

Japan: a nation in search of a role

History: Roosevelt’s timeless wisdom

Books promotion page

Letter: Exports and imports

by Rowell Walton

News Weekly, January 26, 2002


I read with interest the article on trade by Colin Teese (News Weekly, December 1, 2001). Colin made the point regarding Dr Mark McGovern’s 23 per cent agricultural export number, that McGovern’s view was hotly contested by the National Party.

Though I am no longer a member of the party, during my time as a member, I chaired a special Committee of the National Party to resolve this issue permanently. This culminated in what became known as the Customs House Agreement.

A number of specialist academics (specialising in input/output analysis of the national accounts) and the heads of relevant departments of the Australian Bureau of Statistics, whence the figures all derive their basis, attended, and agreed that the (claimed) high numbers of exported agricultural production (80 per cent) were dramatically incorrect.

What followed was not the party as such trying to reassert a lie, but the government. It is important that the differentiation between party and government be made, as the party consists of so many people just expecting the truth. Government has no such thing in mind.

The two major culprits were the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE). That ministers do not have the requisite knowledge and rely on minders and bureaucrats is part of the problem; the other part is a excessive belief in a particular ideology.

Specifically, if the nation’s farmers are to be convinced that they will be better off without their single desks and their drought relief and their milk regulations, then it is a whole lot easier to convince them this route is OK if only 20 per cent of them are at risk of some level of damage. If, on the other hand, the proportion who can get hurt is some 80 per cent, then convincing them will be much harder.

The ideology is that of the free market, the rationalist version, the one that says exporting is more important than domestic production, even if it does not have a better outcome in terms of employment and growth for the wider community.

It is the very same ideology which DFAT recently got caught selling, "that all Australians should purchase the cheapest inputs that can be found around the world, all individuals and governments as well".

Send all our jobs and wealth-producing and distributing industries overseas! Do not consider the employment effects, the balance of payments effects, the foreign debt effects!

Finally, Colin Teese correctly points out that the level of imported manufactured product is now making inroads into Australian farmers’ markets for about 80 per cent of their production - the domestic market, the very same that the ideologues from DFAT and the government want to surrender to imported product.

Where is John Howard when you need him?

He may be able to win an election on the issue of protecting our borders from some poor boat people, but he certainly has proven to have no desire to protect our economic borders!

Rowell Walton,
Condamine, Qld

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