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Was Andrew Robb naive or just after a photo shoot?

Andrew Robb has been hailed as the architect of one of the Coalition’s greatest achievements – their free trade agreements, hastily signed after years of other people’s negotiation. Either Robb was a gun negotiator, or, as seems to be the case, he chose an early signature above Australia’s best interests.

As thousands of people stand to lose their jobs in the steel industry, we are informed by our Prime Minister and Treasurer that Bill Shorten is endangering our free trade agreements by suggesting we use Australian steel in public works.

Apparently we can no longer decide to use Australian products or employ Australian firms. The implications of that are horrendous. The carbon tax didn’t wipe Whyalla off the map but the FTAs might well do the job.

For the car industry, the free trade agreements were yet another nail in the coffin with cheap cars from South Korea, Japan and China about to flood the market. Support for transitioning the industry to innovative manufacture of clean cars or superior quality parts evaporated. Had they had some assistance during the period when mining had forced the Aussie dollar to record highs, this industry may have survived along with the hundreds of thousands of jobs and the skills training it provided, but with no time to transition, they couldn’t survive the FTAs.

In July last year, Greens Senator for Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson wrote to the Parliamentary Budgetary Office requesting a budget analysis of the impact of recently-signed trade agreements on projected revenue.

The Korea FTA is expected to cost us $840 million in lost tariff revenue over 5 years to July 2019.

The Japan FTA is estimated to lose us $2.16 billion in revenue and the China FTA, $4.15 billion.

This was money paid by businesses to government in order to protect domestic industries and jobs.

The only way this revenue can be replaced is if businesses expand and pay more company tax and employ more people who will pay income tax.

But will this potential expansion make up for the industries and jobs lost here?

An analysis by the World Bank shows that the Trans Pacific Partnership would grow Australia’s GDP by just 0.7% by 2030.

The deputy chairman of the JSCOT treaties committee, Labor MP Kelvin Thomson, said “The Coalition government was so keen on getting to a deal on agricultural products that it was indifferent to the effect on others – manufacturers and workers who face the risk of cheaper competition.”

Little has been said about the 15,000 jobs in Australia’s pulp, paper and fibre packaging industry that are now at risk.

The Australian Forest Products Association notes in its submission that ChAFTA delivers an inequitable tariff outcome for paper products which would have an adverse impact on investment and trade in the Australian paper industry.

“There is an asymmetrical treatment of paper products, including tissue, copy paper, newsprint and packaging papers – whereby Australian tariffs would immediately drop to zero or fall to zero within 3 to 5 years with no change at all in the Chinese tariff levels for those same products under the proposed ChAFTA.”

The Ai Group estimates that the local industry can expect to face almost $1billion of Chinese imports over the next four years, warning that Australian paper and packaging companies could “make the strategic decision to move manufacturing to China, as this is the business model currently being rewarded under ChAFTA.”

Even the much vaunted deal on beef exports is not as good as they would have us believe.

The Chinese deal on beef is only for an extra 10% exports before a trigger where tariffs will be charged again, and the proposed tariff reduction will not fully take place for nine years.

Agribusiness lawyer Lea Fua told a Brisbane hearing that China has a safeguard clause which allows it to add customs duties to fresh and frozen beef carcasses and meat when Australian beef imports hit a volume trigger of 170,000 tonnes.

“In 2013-14, Australia exported 161,000 tonnes of beef to China worth $787 million,” Mr Fua told the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Treaties.

“The concern here is that given the growth in Australian beef exports to China, which has been exponential in the last few years, the risk here is that the trigger will be reached fairly quickly and China is able to apply extra customs duty which appears to be against the spirit of chapter two [of the FTA],” he said.

Mr Fua said a similar situation applies to Chinese imports of Australian milk and cream solids.

As Bob Katter has warned, rather than being the food bowl for Asia, on current trajectory, Australia will become a net importer of food, and pretty much everything else other than coal and iron ore. This will have significant implications for domestic prices as farmers can make a greater profit by exporting their produce.

This view is backed up in an Agribusiness Bulletin from Deloittes assessing the impact of the China FTA where they say “the overall impacts on Australia from the FTA are dominated by the benefits to the coal industry.”

According to AMEC, “Elimination of the 3 per cent tariff on coking coal from day one of the Agreement and elimination of the 6 per cent tariff on non-coking coal within two years will be highly beneficial to the Australian coal industry. “

The ridiculous swindle in all this is that those tariffs on coal were only introduced in October 2014.

Either a naïve Andrew Robb was hopelessly out-manoeuvred or a calculatingly political Robb just didn’t care what he was giving up as long as there could be a photo shoot exchanging signatures.

40 comments

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  1. Anna (@anna26458)

    not at all naive – which leaves… perfectly suited to the incumbents 🙁

  2. mark delmege

    giving over Australia to global corporate power was never a good idea. It is why neoliberalism sux.

  3. June M Bullivant OAM

    The problem with people like this is that they want the glory and the office, but when things are going to go wrong and they suddenly wake up that they will get the blame, they get out pretty quick so they won’t be blamed, I have watched two very good organisations go down the tube and a third one headed that way, and this is the method, jump before the ship sinks.

  4. Kaye Lee

    Robb has bailed before he has to answer any questions but scored himself a new role as “Special Envoy” which secured a spot on the plane on Malcolm’s latest extravaganza to China and a seat at the lavish dinner malcolm is hosting over there.

    “Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will enjoy lunch with some of China’s richest and more powerful people when he visits Shanghai on Thursday but Australian taxpayers will be picking up the nearly $300,000 bill.

    Government contract documents reveal Austrade – and therefore taxpayers – will pay the five-star Grand Hyatt Hotel $284,962 to cater the lunch. That comes on top of a $265,000 bill for venue hire at the Shanghai Expo Centre, although the lunch is only one of a number of events being held there throughout the week.

    The crowd will consist of a 1000-strong Australian business delegation led by Trade Minister Steve Ciobo and about 800 Chinese businesspeople and government figures at a cost of approximately $160 a head.

    Taxpayers are also being charged for a range of other events across 12 Chinese cities during the week.

    Conference and meeting room hire in a range of hotels will cost at least $180,000, in addition to the expo centre contract.

    There is also $20,000 for graphic design and “brand identity”, $32,000 for photo and film editing, $21,000 for bus rental, $27,000 for AV equipment, $12,000 for Wi-Fi and $10,000 for marketing.

    That means taxpayers will be charged at least $850,000 – but that doesn’t include travel or costs for the prime minister and his entourage, or for Mr Ciobo, special trade envoy Andrew Robb or their teams.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbulls-300000-lunch-taxpayers-slugged-for-china-party-20160408-go1sie.html#ixzz45PXnXxTx

  5. flyboy48

    And these guys are the better economic managers … !!

  6. indigo

    In the year 2032 Australia will be a friendly takeover for China. The Chinese Chairman of will reassure Australia that nothing will change like Hong Kong. He will reassure us that we can still have Anzac Day and Aussie Rules and Rugby.Australia Day will be changed to Collaboration Day. And all Police and The Military will be run by the Chinese government.They will laugh privately that we can still play 2 Up.Those Aussies! they will LOL.

  7. Kaye Lee

    The “better economic managers” are very confusing to follow. On one hand, Greg Hunt is using the ERF to pay farmers to reduce the size of their herds and not clear trees for grazing land, while on the other, the FTA is likely to increase the herd size by about 280,000 head. The expected increase in exports is predicted to outstrip the growth in production so meat prices here will rise.

    We need to dump the ERF and get back to carbon pricing. That would be a $10 billion turnaround in the budget right there.

  8. Andreas

    TRAITOR! In every other country people like Robb and the political party they represent would be dealt with harshly. In AUS? PROMOTION! How can a country be so collectively stupid to let this happen?

  9. Matters Not

    Robb’s thinking is underpinned by assumptions about how the ‘market’ operates. He is ‘convinced’ that the theory of free markets being in the best interests of all is unshakeable (I suspect).

    It’s a ‘religion’. No correspondence to be entered into. It’s an example of ‘faith’ triumphing over ‘rationality’ (based on prior experience) and ‘science’ (subject to actual historical and future testing).

    He ‘believes’ in what did (re FTAs) as being in the best interests of all. It’s not his intentions that should be questioned. Just his ‘error’.

  10. kerri

    In my opinion, Robb sought to go out on a high!

  11. Kaye Lee

    In the first five years after the signing of the US FTA, Australia’s exports to the US grew by only 2.5 per cent, compared with double-digit growth for exports to all the major Asian trading partners. America slipped from third to fifth among Australian export destinations, overtaken by Korea and India.

    By 2009, the value of Australian exports to the US was only about a quarter of those to the two leading customers, China and Japan. The four Asian countries together took more than 10 times the value of exports to the US despite having no such trade agreements.

    Moreover, between 2004 and 2009, the bilateral trade gap in America’s favour grew even larger. Australia’s imports from America grew much more quickly than its exports to America. According to US data, the gap in America’s favour grew from $US6.4 billion to $US11.6 billion.

    In 2004 Australian exports to America were worth about 54 per cent of the value of imports from that country. By 2009 the figure was down to 41 per cent.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/mind-the-gap-benefits-from-free-trade-havent-quite-gone-the-distance-20100302-pg6p.html

  12. Matters Not

    KL, the ‘facts’ you present are all very true but the ‘meaning’ that will be given is based on the assumption that trade between and among countries (nations) somehow advantages (or disadvantages) the citizens.

    The evidence suggest otherwise. Need I remind you that out of 1539 of Australia’s largest corporate entities, 38 per cent did not pay any tax in 2013-14.

    579 paid no tax! Trade figures are but a mask which hides what is actually happening. (I believe).

    http://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/which-of-australias-biggest-companies-are-not-paying-tax-20151216-glpl3a.html

    It’s not Australians who are benefitting from FTAs but corporations operating under the cover of ‘nations’. The very same corporations who pay no tax.

  13. wam

    this is years old i know sfa about economics but robb err ed everytime he spoke and his shadow bowed to the labor collegiality of protecting their fellow pollies who are ill(the rabbott pursued thomson but labor nothing in another blackdog hokey pokey maryjo).
    he was clearly out ‘negotiated’ but as his aim was to crack the unions and the minimum wages, his success is assured.
    Any old territorian will remember the ‘free trade zone’ of 30 years ago and the story fits the 2016 tales from Fiji and chinese 457 twists by ‘contractors’.

  14. Gilly

    Not to forget the potential carnage of TISA to Health, Education and now Transport

  15. ImagiNation

    Thank you Kaye Lee. A thorough and informed start to exposing the lies and deception of FTA’s. The One World Government is no longer a conspiracy theory, it is real and evolving at an unprecedented rate. They are not even trying to hide it any more, just look at the changes around the world in the last 12 months, 6 months, 1 month. False flag attacks in Paris and Brussels, fastracking digital currency for total control of the people, released GFC banksters in Iceland, the list goes on and on. The TPP must be stopped at whatever cost. Mainstream media is silent, politicians are silent, Independent Media is our only hope of educating the masses. Please keep up the good work.

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    We now have entrench a government that also makes no pretence of governing for people but only for the corporate sector.

    A government that believes any money that goes towards the people, even for essential services is a drag on the economy.

    In their eyes, the concept of commonwealth doesn’t apply.

  17. bossa

    I’m thinking of writing a book…

    Andrew Robb: The Man Who Sold The World.

    (Surely his last name gives a hint Kaye?)

  18. bossa

    A new title for this most excellent article: Are the LNP agents of foreign powers or merely stupid?

    Surely they understand that their “policies” will eventually destroy us. Why do we continually allow traitors such as these to get away with handing us over on a platter to corporate power when other countries imprison such cowards?

  19. Michael Taylor

    Bossa, it stumps me, too. How can they be so fanatical about a policy that is damaging to the country? Makes me wonder – is there more in it for them than there is for us?

  20. Kaye Lee

    Any book about Robb should contain the following tawdry episode to underline just how treacherous this man can be….

    “On small things political history often turns. For Malcolm Turnbull it was a handwritten note from a treacherous colleague, passed to him during a Liberal Party meeting on November 24, 2009. This single sheet of paper triggered the destruction of Turnbull’s leadership and with it, the Rudd government’s emissions trading scheme (ETS).

    The note was written by Andrew Robb , Turnbull’s climate change spokesman, who had taken leave from parliamentary duties in September 2009 to deal with a mental illness. Robb returned to work just in time to contribute to the party room debate on the ETS. He had been expected to support his leader’s proposed compromise with Labor, thus allowing the legislation to pass the Senate. Instead, he embarked on a series of deceitful ploys to bring down Turnbull.

    Robb’s first lie was to conceal from his leader his opposition to the ETS compromise. When asked by Turnbull lieutenant Senator Michael Ronaldson if he was going to speak in the debate, he said he didn’t know. In fact, Robb saw himself as the key player in scuttling Turnbull’s policy. As he wrote in his 2011 book Black Dog Daze, “I knew that if I didn’t say anything, there was no one else [in the opposition] equipped to challenge the proposal.”

    During the ETS controversy, Robb thought he needed to speak early in the party room debate, otherwise momentum would build in favour of Turnbull’s position.

    Robb achieved his goal through deviousness. In order to be elevated on the speakers’ list, he misled his leader about the impact of his depression medication. In a note to Turnbull, who was chairing the meeting, he claimed, “the side-effects of the medication I am on now make me very tired, I’d be really grateful if you could get me to my feet soon”. This was a wicked tactic. As Robb recorded in his book, under the heading An Act of Treachery, “I didn’t feel that good about doing this . . . I was tired, that wasn’t a lie, although I had my share of adrenaline pumping and could have easily sat there for another couple of hours.”

    The ruse worked. “Malcolm called me up and I went for it”, Robb wrote. He received a “standing ovation” and “poked holes all over their proposal”. A week later Turnbull lost the Liberal leadership to Tony Abbott in a coup organised by Robb and the party’s other climate change sceptics.

    http://www.afr.com/news/politics/national/the-ploy-that-torpedoed-turnbull-20130429-jhwhh#ixzz45SnMYX4k

  21. Michael Taylor

    I see one major problem with a book about Andrew Robb, and it’s a big one. Apart from George Brandis (who buys books about anything), who the bloody hell will want a copy?

  22. Kaye Lee

    I am astounded by the number of politicians who have time to write books while holding down a job that they tell us involves REALLY long hours.

  23. bossa

    If I actually wrote a book it wouldn’t be about Robb. My post was an excuse to publish the title, which anyone is welcome to use royalty free. 😉

    Australia surely is a land of Sheeple as we seem to be the only country to openly, and lavishly, reward traitors for the damage they create. War criminals and crony capitalist politicians (thieves) seem to have the highest paid retirement positions in this country bar none.

    I often wonder when Murdoch will fall off his perch and whether his offspring will fill the void with like behaviour. But it really is up to us to stop them rather than resort to hope and prayers – I fear the middle classes are too weak to respond and the working classes too busy with being poor and with sport.

  24. indigo

    Me to Kay Lee’ What is it with politicians whilst in power writing their memoirs?And, we have; wait for it? Politicians strategically retreating or retiring “needing to spend more time with their family”. Aka Steve Bracks and Joe Hockey and others. Joe should have been spending more time with his family instead of the ego indulging; writing of a book .If he had his priorities right. But we know it is all bullshit.Those 2 politicians would be the most inconsequential for all time.Maybe there’s a book in it.Wish I was a Politician as I would have all the time and resources to write it.

  25. ImagiNation

    Perhaps another book. ‘The Trans Pacific Partnership and The Politics of Deception’

  26. townsvilleblog

    Robb signed us up to a low wage future of foreign ownership and then pulls the pin to enjoy life on the parliamentary pension and perks and possibly back handers from the other dealmakers he sold us out to?

  27. indigo

    Robb is a brain dead twit.

  28. Kaye Lee

    This is my favourite video of Andrew Robb where a staffer is telling him to STFU at a press conference

  29. Kyran

    The closure of the Electrolux factory in Orange has eerie parallels to so much of this article. The General Manager, Mark O’Kane stated;

    “it also has significance for Australian manufacturers as they seek to compete globally.
    “Every major manufacturer in the world is in this south east region, specifically Thailand,” he said.
    “They have government support, they have trade-free zones within these industrial parks and of course at the end of the day a labour rate of $2.50 an hour.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-11/orange's-electrolux-closes-its-doors-for-good/7315122

    The Minister for Resources, joshing Frydenberg on Insiders yesterday;
    “We’ve been working for 30 years towards a bipartisan consensus towards an open, competitive economy. Bill Shorten’s position repudiates that and it will have two profound effects. Firstly, it will drive up the cost to taxpayers because by saying that a monopoly provider will not have competition in a tender process will reduce any incentive to reduce price. So that’s the first point. The second is it will invite retaliatory action from our free trade partners because we have a number of agreements, be it with Singapore, with Japan, with Korea, with the United States, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which prevent Australia from giving preferential access to domestic suppliers. You see, we’re a trading nation. We benefit from trading to the world. Our companies, our service providers, our farmers all benefit from access to open markets. What Bill Shorten has done in this very reckless position has put that all in jeopardy.”
    The full interview (if you’ve had your breakfast and are confident it will stay where it is) is here;

    http://www.abc.net.au/insiders/content/2015/s4440434.htm

    It seems the extent of the argument is that we can subsidise local industry if it’s to do with mining, as these are commodities our trading partners require. We cannot, however, subsidise any industry that competes with our trading partners. Electrolux, a Swedish company, are not closing the factory because it’s unprofitable. They are closing it because they can make greater profits by manufacturing in Thailand.

    The premise of the argument is that the profits are sacrosanct and must be maximised on a global basis, ie ‘capital’ is critical. The opposing argument would, presumably, be to propose that the workers pay and conditions were sacrosanct on a global basis. Imagine if the International Labour Organisation got to dictate an international ‘minimum wage’?
    Yeah, I know. Idiotic in the extreme.
    Thank you Ms Lee. Take care

  30. indigo

    Robb didn’t have depression . He had Stupid Person Disease or SPD. Robb spoke so slowly and seemed so happy that his sentences made some sense to himself. The Chinese will be cracking jokes about him for years to come.

  31. Kaye Lee

    Kyran,

    Funny you should say that….from April 2015….

    “Amid a rising wave of downsizing and closures throughout the Australian mining sector, Caterpillar, the US mining equipment giant, has announced it will eliminate another 280 jobs at its factory in Burnie, on Tasmania’s northwest coast, and relocate the bulk of work to a plant in Rayong Province, Thailand.

    The Caterpillar workers, who make bucket loaders and bumper trucks for the mining industry, were informed 10 days ago that manufacturing would cease over the next 12 months. Only about 100 jobs in research, development and distribution would remain, for now, at Burnie. Six years ago, the plant employed more than 600 people.

    The closure will also hit suppliers and contractors, adding to the jobs crisis gripping the island state, where more than 1,600 mining jobs have been scrapped in the past 12 months alone, driven by falling commodity prices and stalling demand.

    Caterpillar workers had been assured by the management, in partnership with the trade unions, that they could protect their jobs by accepting cuts to conditions to make the company “internationally competitive.”

    Caterpillar launched two large plants in Rayong during 2012 to take advantage of Thailand’s low wages—the country’s basic monthly wage currently stands at 1,3581.9 baht (around $A539).

    Last month, the company announced it would eliminate 230 jobs in Joliet, Illinois and move the production of oil pumps and valves to a factory in Monterrey, Mexico, where the average daily minimum wage is about 70 pesos (less than $US5). The company said the decision was necessary “to remain cost competitive.”

    In 2012, Joliet workers went on strike for more than three months to oppose Caterpillar’s plan to slash healthcare and pension benefits, and freeze wages. At that time, pay for most workers at the plant ranged from just $13 to $28 an hour.

    https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/04/21/cate-a21.html

  32. Kyran

    The link is an interesting perspective in terms of expediency being a desirable outcome for anything other than a short term fix. Notwithstanding the source, also interesting to note the union’s suggested link to the business and government, to the detriment of their own members. Manufacturing in Australia accounted for 25% of GDP in the 60’s and now contributes less than 10% of GDP. The ‘wiki’ is worth a look (even though it’s dated information);

    https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwihyoq8woXMAhWFvoMKHdoaCocQFggiMAE&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FManufacturing_in_Australia&usg=AFQjCNGrjKjkDWfy4uadTaXadsN9Wogxcw

    Over the past few weeks, there have been many articles about the rise of Trump. Many suggest he’s getting by on a slogan, “Let’s make America great again”. Not much policy, but he’s harnessing much of the anger that has been building since the demise of their manufacturing sector.

    “On the back of this industrial output rose America’s middle class. High-paying manufacturing jobs, in turn, helped spur a robust and growing economy that depended little on foreign nations for manufactured goods and armaments.
    However, manufacturing as a share of the economy has been plummeting. In 1965, manufacturing accounted for 53 percent of the economy. By 1988 it only accounted for 39 percent, and in 2004, it accounted for just 9 percent.”
    “By building factories overseas, manufacturers are sowing the seeds of their own long-term destruction by slowly reducing the wealth of Americans—their primary customers.”

    https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjb6aijxYXMAhVImIMKHdnlDg4QFggnMAI&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.thetrumpet.com%2Farticle%2F2061.24.80.0%2Feconomy%2Fthe-death-of-american-manufacturing&usg=AFQjCNGSueodp9qmZBsqxtYdHecyAyHEeg

    The argument for FTA’s and the like is short term and for the benefit of ‘capital’ only. It is the epitome of the already discredited ‘trickle down’ theorem. If there was a global minimum wage, the third world countries that are currently being pillaged (in every sense) would have at least some mid to long term benefit. It would be a lot to ask from the ‘leaders’ or their benefactors. Thanks, again, Ms Lee. Take care

  33. Jamma Dan

    Maybe the prudent thing to do is to start learning Mandarin,….our new overlords are coming soon

  34. ImagiNation

    Kyran you are assuming with a global minimum wage they will earn more. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We will earn less

  35. ImagiNation

    Global minimum wage, global monetary system, global army, one world leader, one world religion… All controlled by the banks. Welcome the the New World Order Bush senior told us we will have by consent or by force.

  36. Kyran

    ImagiNation, with respect, I was assuming no such thing. The entire premise was based on which minimum would be acceptable. Ours, at $15.58 (US) per hour, was the highest I could find on this list.

    https://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjwgN6MiYbMAhVhKaYKHVkYDV0QFggbMAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FList_of_minimum_wages_by_country&usg=AFQjCNEhqXsBzJZJ_1iV8Jon6b1Ws2Xu3Q

    If the hourly labour rate was set at, say, $7.00 ($US) per hour globally, we will earn less (as PAYE). But the costs of production go up exponentially for all our ‘competitors’. This ‘global’ crap is being driven from the top down (trickle), not the bottom’s up (equity). When the top of the digestive chain is in conflict with the bottom end of the digestive train, all you get is flatulence. Take care

  37. ImagiNation

    Kyran I can just see it. Excessive greed forces corporations to spend billions offshoring for cheap labour then introduce a global minimum wage triple the rate it is now. Such benevolence.

  38. Mercurial

    Just look at Abbott in that pic. The lizard tongue is ready to appear – any minute now.

    Flick! Flick!

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