Labor’s new Hansonites - and your cheap Chinese shirts
Who needs Pauline Hanson when you’ve got Nathan Rees and Eric Roozendaal?
If you’re reading this article, it means that the Rees Government has done its bit to murder Australia’s reputation as a modern, sensible, civilised trading partner, a mature open economy which understands that while some jobs have gone offshore, many thousands of new ones have been created by pulling down our trade barriers.
These pre-Whitlamite drongos on Macquarie Street have effectively trashed Australia’s reputation by pandering to prejudice and an unsophisticated grasp of how modern economies work.
It’s bad enough that NSW has to suffer their world’s best practice incompetence and their knee-jerk attempts to claw themselves out of strife by posturing about local jobs.
Given the damage they have done to our standing with this dumb policy, you could now mount a national security argument for this government’s removal.
Kevin Rudd has made no secret of his utter disdain for Nathan Rees and, this week, his ministers were quick to ice suggestions from NSW Treasurer Roozendaal that the biggest state government in the nation would start unilaterally vetoing certain imports because of some belated, poll-driven desire to get dinki-di on procurement.
Trade Minister Simon Crean could not have been more blunt. Wouldn’t work, wouldn’t happen.
What Rees and Roozendaal have proposed is probably not only illegal – it would get us dragged before the World Trade Organisation faster than you could say “Please explain?” – it also won’t save a single Aussie job.
It will also result in the public paying more through their taxes so that the State Government can buy more expensive local goods, not because they’re better, but because this mob are so desperate to stay in power that they’ve invoked the transparent patriot card.
In a shambolic turn on the SkyNews program Playing Politics on Monday, Roozendaal admitted that “some things may go up” as a result of his policy.
As Kent Brockman said to Homer Simpson: “Well, touché.”
Given how much public interest there is in the issue, in the wake of the sacking of 1850 workers at Pacific Brands, and following the revelations that the State Government was shopping overseas for everything from firefighters’ uniforms to police hats, their budget measure was always going to be front page news, and the subject of rare applause from a public that rates this hapless mob somewhere next to bathroom mould in the popularity stakes.
But let’s break with tradition and leave the NSW Government to one side - and talk about you.
As the late Chippy Frilingos would say, it’s about time the public pulled over and gave itself an upper cut on this issue.
Many of the things people seem to get so worked up about are in reality inanimate objects, and they enjoy such a degree of impassioned affection that you could hold two days’ worth of psychological seminars around them.
It’s probably worth reminding ourselves of a few things.
Vegemite is a mysterious salty paste that comes in jars and is spread on your toast.
Arnotts is a biscuit company. It should not hold the same place in our psyche as the ANZACS, the 1983 America’s Cup team or Don Bradman’s Invincibles. They mix ingredients such as flour, eggs and sugar together and package them up in a variety of guises – the Iced Vo-Vo, Milk Arrowroots, and Tim Tams, to name just a few.
These biscuits, and this company, which like any good business is chiefly interested in making money, do not form the bedrock of our civilisation.
And Akubras are dead rabbits which have been turned into a hat shape.
Unless you can prove to me that as our boys landed at Gallipoli they were doing it for the Iced Vo Vo and the Akubra, I’d say spare us the sentimental tosh and let’s proceed to a more sophisticated discussion.
Also – if you want to pursue the argument that someone Pacific Brands CEO Sue Morphet is the devil incarnate, next time you shout “yay” when you buy a blouse for five bucks at the local DFO, ask yourself if it’s Sue, or you, who’s sending the jobs offshore.
The products are one thing but the people who make them are something else.
You can see why the public is so distressed about the impact of globalisation – it has resulted in direct sackings, purely as a result of manufacturing going offshore.
And as someone who grew up about 500 metres from what is now the vacant Mitsubishi site in Adelaide, and attended a state school where many of the boys left in Year 10 to work there, the human dimension of this discussion is far and away the most important element.
But this simply makes it even more despicable for a so-called Labor Government to perpetrate a cruel hoax on working class people by pretending it actually has the ability to do something about jobs going off shore.
This is the nub of the issue.
You cannot stop globalisation, so the challenge is to work within it.
And this is where, through the free trade relationship we have with countries such as China, the impact of domestic jobs going overseas has been lessened by the creation of new opportunities for Australian workers who are employed by industries that make primary products, goods and services for the now-open Chinese market.
Numbers time, courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Last year Australia imported $35 billion of goods from China – many of them items that used to be made here by Australians.
We imported $3.8 billion worth of clothes, almost $3 billion worth of telecommunications equipment and parts, $2.8 billion of computers and almost $2 billion of prams, sporting goods and toys which you find at Go-Lo and Cheap as Chips, and contain small parts and are not to be used as a flotation device.
All that money, all those jobs, all gone. Makes you sick.
Oh hang on – there’s another column here of stuff we exported to China – $32.5 billion worth of stuff. It includes $18 billion worth of iron, $1.5 billion of wool, $1.2 billion of copper and $940 million of something called manganese.
When you look at the services column, you also find that we exported $3.1 billion worth of education and training (overseas students, who don’t take places from Australians but are over and above our domestic intake). In return we imported just $480 million worth of services from our Chinese friends.
Another figure that jumps out at you – just six years ago we were exporting less than $10 billion of goods and services to China. As you read earlier, it’s now $32.5 billion.
These are the numbers which Rees and Roozendaal ignore when they go on their cloth-eared, jingoistic, Akubra-loving spree in yesterday’s budget.
What’s really funny about this is, during his largely undistinguished tenure as ALP state secretary, the one thing Eric Roozendaal was really good at was fund-raising.
He convinced business – which has a vested interested in expanding and hiring – that the ALP was a passionate advocate of free trade.
All those donors, all those blokes who ate overcooked steaks with a cloying veal reduction down at the Westin Hotel, should probably ask for a refund.
Not that we should worry about them, but the people they employ who have a vested interest in keeping trade open, and the public conversation informed.
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