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The aftertaste

February 11th, 2004

For those still inclined to defend the Free Trade Agreement with the US, the news that the sugar industry is to be bought off should be the clincher. Both in the specific terms of the Agreement, with respect to copyright, the PBS and other issues, and in the payoffs to those who were left out this deal represents a commitment to bad public policy. What’s the betting we’ll see yet more handouts to Manildra and the ethanol lobby out of all this.

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  1. February 11th, 2004 at 10:46 | #1

    you’re right that the libs shouldnt bother to buy off sugar votes just because they are whingers…

    politics would be so much better if the people in power could say and do what the actually think is best…some of the time its actually the case that they are decent people, and theyre prevented from creating progress by a cludgy political system…(evil democracy…heh)…for some reason, i really like costello…

    anyhoo, costello on the radio was interesting this morning. you could tell he wanted to say screw sugar, go out and get real jobs in an efficient industry, and he ended up coming pretty close to saying this. he basically said the government would try to help them to think about other careers…heres hoping…

  2. Dave Ricardo
    February 11th, 2004 at 10:55 | #2

    Hey, why not help Manildra? They’ve given lots of money to the Liberal Party, and one good turn deserves another, especially if the good turns come courtesy of the tax payers.

  3. Homer Paxton
    February 11th, 2004 at 13:21 | #3

    the 500 odd word document won’t be released for a few weeks. i’m tols it will include a 400 page appendix.

    Isn’t this argument err premature?

  4. February 11th, 2004 at 14:02 | #4

    Its strange behaviour indeed – we sign an FTA so our industries are exposed to increased competition, almost pushing the little ones out, then we go ahead and give them corporate welfare so they can continue with their shonky practices? whats the point in signing the thing if we have to spend money? will sugar be the only industry compensated?

  5. dbuhmann
    February 11th, 2004 at 14:57 | #5

    Here in the States the sugar industry has been bought off for years through price controls. The one-time candy making capitol, Chicago, has recently lost candy companies (and thus jobs) because of high domestic prices (bsides old-time management). Here in Louisiana, the cane farmers are worrried about the CAFTA (the Central American version of NAFTA) agreements on their future prices for sugar.

  6. Jill Rush
    February 11th, 2004 at 19:15 | #6

    I am still waiting to make a decision on its woth although it is a concern that the document has not been made easily available. It is certain that if it really was in the national interest of Australia that it would have been released to avoid speculation.

    I heard today that Americans will sit on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Board and the Foreign

    Investment Review Board. Is it true? If it is why are we doing this which is a direct blow to our sovereignty?

    My concerns over Australian content for media have yet to be allayed and the concessions we are offereing whilst getting less in return makes me think that this is somewhat akin to a minnow being swallowed by a predator. Great for the predator but apart from a warm fuzzy feeling not so great for the minnow.

  7. Brian Bahnisch
    February 11th, 2004 at 21:52 | #7

    Jill, I heard that too about Americans sitting on important decision-making bodies and was duly shocked. I heard it on Radio National’s “Perspective”. However, I thought it was quarantine rather than foreign investment.

    Sandy McCutcheon said an extended version of the transcript would be on the net. I checked it out at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/perspective/stories/s1042772.htm but it’s a shortened version and misses out that part.

  8. observa
    February 12th, 2004 at 01:31 | #8

    Latham had the opportunity to play the statesman here and took the soft option. He could have largely let the issue go through to the keeper, but chose to go negative. A realistic appraisal of the two parties going in was that we would not give up PBS and the US were not going to flood their market with our agriculture. The outcome was always going to be compromised around this.(As a hypothetical you might like to ask whether we should give up the PBS for agricultural access) At any rate Latham chose to attack the negatives, particularly sugar, for some short term political advantage(in this game it’s always easy to show immediate losers than identify longer term winners)I would suggest that this will buy him some longer term headaches, as the Govt pork-barrels to an even greater extent to the sugar industry, to take the steam out of this criticism.

    We saw this with privatisation of electricity in SA. With a federal gun to its head to privatise, and a Labor opposition dead against, the Lib govt was politically forced sell the poles and wires for 3 times their value, in order to be seen to broker a good deal. Now the new Labor govt has inherited the problem of high power prices, due to the need to extract a return on this inflated capital(among other factors). Basically Mark, don’t squeal when Bert Kelly’s govt cow sloshes its milk all over the cane-fields shortly, because of your added impetus.

  9. February 12th, 2004 at 05:12 | #9

    Just out of interest, John..Have the liberal party ever done anything you’d consider “good”? Or is it just one failure after another?

  10. John
    February 12th, 2004 at 06:35 | #10

    An example that would appeal to you, I’m sure, Yobbo. The Liberal party in Victoria led the world in improving road safety, particularly through more effective law enforcement from the 1970s through to (and including) the Kennett era. Of course, now they’ve got Robert Doyle they’re going in the opposite direction.

  11. February 12th, 2004 at 06:57 | #11

    I believe Pr Q supported the Fed Lib party’s interventionist foreign policy with respect to Timor and Afghanistan, although it is not clear whether this was on moral or strategic grounds.(In those cases, both rationales were applicable and valid.)

  12. John
    February 12th, 2004 at 07:06 | #12

    More relevantly for the purposes of the current debate, I was a strong supporter of the Howard government’s decision to liberalise parallel importing, something that is threatened by the FTA. There’s one piece here and more, including a Senate inquiry submission, if you want to check the website.

    Also, I supported the idea of a GST with food exempt both when Hewson proposed it in 1993 and when it was being debated in 1998.

  13. Brian Bahnisch
    February 13th, 2004 at 22:33 | #13

    Jill, the fuller text of the “Perspectives” story is up on the net now. In it Dr Elizabeth Thurbon said:

    “Under the deal, the US has won the right for American representatives to sit on the Australian bodies that determine our quarantine laws

    “Similarly, the US has won the right to have American representatives sit on the Australian board that decide which medicines will be subsidized by Australian taxpayers’ money.”

    The story is at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/perspective/stories/s1042772.htm

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