By Andreas Bimba
Highly relevant to the forced exit of Australia’s car assembly industry are the free trade agreements (FTAs) and the goals of the Institute of Public Affairs – the think tank for the neo-conservative hard right in Australian business and politics.
This is however more than about making cars, or Australia’s manufacturing industry. It’s about serious corruption of Australia’s democracy and economy and the seizure of considerable political power by hidden, powerful, local and foreign vested interests and could be seen as a hidden coup d’etat.
Why are the Australian neo-conservatives so keen on FTAs with low wage cost competitors unlike any other comparable developed country? Well firstly, Australia’s most powerful lobbyists, from the mining, banking/finance, rural and Chinese business want FTAs and are willing to pay our politicians to get them. Secondly, the FTAs invariably mean we import more goods, for example from China, which acts to lower the value of the Australian dollar from where it would otherwise be, which improves the profitability of the mining industry and the bulk agricultural export industry. A case of one section of the economy taking advantage of its disproportionate power and a corrupt political system to squeeze out another. A bit like cuckoos pushing out their smaller companions.
The main problem with this form of crony capitalism is that the gain in job numbers in the mining and agricultural sectors is much less than the number of jobs lost in the manufacturing and associated services sector. The destruction of otherwise successful businesses, expensively acquired production capacity and technological skills and the social cost has been huge. Our economy has also become more reliant on bulk exports of low value commodities that inevitably fluctuate wildly in value and our coal and gas exports will eventually face price collapse as fossil use is phased out. Australia is moving closer to a high unemployment banana republic economy, that will struggle to support its current levels of social services and healthcare, rather than to a knowledge intensive, high value adding economy, under the incompetent and corrupt stewardship of our neo-liberal Conservative and Labor governments.
The promise of greater high technology and innovative exports arising from the FTAs is mostly a con as firstly no significant policy actions have been taken to bring this about, and secondly the ongoing destruction of Australia’s existing industrial and knowledge base makes the establishment of new innovative industries more difficult and expensive.
In regard to the FTAs, a 21 May 2016 article in The Age by Gina McColl titled ‘Chinese interests play increasing role in Australian political donations‘ reveals one of the reasons we now have ChAFTA, the China Australia Free Trade Agreement and the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It’s not a clean story but don’t ever be fooled that any of the old major Australian political parties have your best interests at the top of their agenda. This looks like corruption to me and it’s on a massive scale. If not in law then the laws have probably been corruptly drafted.
On Monday 23 May 2016, the ABC Four Corners program broadcast ‘Money and Influence‘ which covers the shadowy world of political donations. This program can be viewed in the link below:
The Institute of Public Affairs, the think tank for the neo-conservative hard right has a much more powerful impact than most of us probably realise. Most Australians have probably never even heard of this organisation. Have a look at the IPA’s publication ‘Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia’ and note one of the authors James Paterson who recently won the Liberal Party’s top spot for the Victorian Senate ticket. All of us should make themselves aware of all of the 75 appalling goals of the IPA as they are on the fast track for implementation by the Coalition and in many cases also by the ALP.
While we are on the subject here are a few more relevant articles:
About the author: Andreas Bimba is a mechanical engineer and former employee of Toyota Australia’s manufacturing operations in Melbourne and a member of the Australian Greens. This article does not necessarily reflect the current policies and views of the Australian Greens.