Governments and businesses need to work together to rebuild Australia’s manufacturing industries, and create trade policies which do not destroy local businesses in favour of subsidised overseas companies.

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The destruction of Australian manufacturing

by Craig Milne PODCAST In the third of the series of interviews on Australian manufacturing, Craig Milne from the Australian Productivity Council talks with Chris McCormack about why Australia lost its manufacturing mojo, how this has affected individual and collective wealth and what needs to be done to rekindle a viable Australian manufacturing industry. Listen…

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Technology Roadmap will put us on a road to nowhere

by Chris McCormack Technology Investment Roadmap prioritises emissions reduction First goal is to reduce hydrogen production costs to $2 a kilogram Priority should be to lower power costs, not speculate on technology With low-cost, reliable energy the key to Australian manufacturing reversing the economic damage inflicted by the forced covid19 shutdown, will the Federal Government’s…

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Reversing a bad trend

by Chris McCormack Melbourne clothing maker diversifies to produce essential PPE Government procurements total 15 per cent of GDP “Buy Australian First” procurement policy would reinvigorate local manufacturing Amid the economic Armageddon due to the covid19 lockdown, a ray of hope has emerged for one Australian manufacturer. Fella Hamilton, named after its female founder in…

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Looking back for the purposes of going forward

by Colin Teese For those Australians hoping for forward-looking, enlightened government economic programs to take us beyond covid19, the signs are not promising. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and it would seem most of his cabinet, are looking backwards for inspiration as they struggle to develop policies for how economic Australia might look a year or…

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Crucial to get Virgin Australia flying again

by Peter Westmore When Virgin Australia’s board put the company into administration in April, it had the unenviable distinction of being the largest corporate victim of the covid19 pandemic in Australia. The immediate impact will be felt by Virgin’s 10,000 employees, including subsidiary Tigerair, and many could lose their jobs. But the employment impact will…

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Rebuilding industry won’t just happen: here’s what’s needed

by Patrick J. Byrne After the covid19 crisis vividly exposed the vulnerability of Australia’s global supply chains, (re)building essential medical supplies and other strategic industries will take far more government involvement than just cutting the company tax rate. In an exercise eerily predictive of the current crisis, the Department of Defence last year assembled 17…

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Post-covid19, create a national development bank

By Patrick J. Byrne A government-backed development bank would provide an ideal instrument to help financially engineer an economic recovery after the unprecedented shutdown of non-essential activities during the covid19 pandemic. The Federal Government is yet to prioritise a national development bank for Australia, despite contributing $US738 million towards China’s Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and…

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INDUSTRY POLICY: The rise and fall of Australian manufacturing and covid19

by Geoff Crittenden Australia had a long, proud history of manufacturing throughout the 20th century. With the Federation of Australia in 1901, customs barriers were eliminated between the states so they could more easily trade with another. This prompted the first wave of manufacturing expansion, particularly in Victoria and New South Wales. By 1913, manufacturing…

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Pandemic has exposed our overreliance on imports

by Chris McCormack Ninety per cent of our pharmaceuticals are imported Plastics manufacturer closed after power bills rose by $1.2 million a year Affordable energy key to domestic manufacturing One thing covid19 has highlighted is Australia’s overreliance on imported products as essential medical equipment and other product lines of supply dry up. Manufacturing in Australia…

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Australia needs an economic reset after covid19 crisis

by Patrick J. Byrne As the first responsibility of government is to protect citizens from harm, the Prime Minister’s $130 billion wages package – to help feed families and keep people in their homes and jobs – is an important move in the right direction. However, the covid19 crisis has highlighted Australia’s vulnerability to fragile…

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Australia is not safe in the borderless globalised world

by Colin Teese An early postwar British Prime Minister, Harold McMillan, was perhaps the canniest of his age. An enthusiastic journalist once asked him what were the greatest problems facing a prime minister. Quick as a flash, McMillan came back: “Events, dear boy, events.” As one might expect, McMillan dealt pretty well with “events”. More…

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Not very fresh options for a capitalism in which capital is worthless

CAPITALISM ALONE: The Future of the System that Rules the World by Branko Milanovic Belknap Press, Cambridge Hardcover: 272 pages Price: AUD$64.99 Reviewed by David James Earnest discussion about capitalism is still very much mired in the aftershocks of the Cold War, and beholden to thinkers who developed their ideas in the 19th century or…

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Holden, China, covid19: Time for industry reset

by Patrick J. Byrne With the death of Holden, the disruption of global supply chains by covid19 (coronavirus) and the United States’ fundamental “reset” of its foreign policy towards China, Australia must now rebuild its manufacturing and rural sectors in the national interest. Together, these events uncover the disastrous cost of misplaced free-market doctrines and…

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CANBERRA OBSERVED After the fires, we still need an economy and to power it

Undoubtedly the fires of the summer of 2020 have altered the political conversation in Australia about climate change, but to what extent and what will be the actual response? If media groupthink is any guide, the Morrison Government has not just been blistered but needs to be contrite for years of negligence that allegedly has…

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FUEL SECURITY As Canberra sleeps, all is well … well … well

The September 14 drone and guided-missile attacks on Saudi oilfields and processing plants reduced their production capacity from 10 million barrels daily to 4.3 million barrels per day. This leaves a huge gap in Saudi Arabia’s export capacity. All is well: echoes do not disturb the sleep of champions. While it was unconfirmed at the…

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WATER POLICY Angry farmers protest over Murray-Darling Basin Plan … again

Around 1,500 angry farmers have called for a pause to the Murray-Darling Basin Management Plan, while others have accused non-farmer water investment companies (water barons) of holding back water from sale in the middle of today’s severe drought to spike the water price. In early September, the protesting farmers held a “sit in” on the…

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BOOK REVIEW America’s postwar boom and its end

WHAT WENT WRONG: How the 1% Hijacked the American Middle Class … and What Other Countries Got Right by George R. Tyler BenBella Books, Dallas, Texas Hardcover: 576 pages Price: AUD$47.99 Reviewed by Colin Teese George Tyler comes to a discussion of the American economy with the necessary experience (the U.S. Treasury and the World…

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BANKING FEATURE Greed works … at least for a while and for a few

Banks perform a necessary function but, if all they do is reward greed, the societies that host them will not benefit. Banking in one form or another has been around for thousands of years but modern banking became prominent in the Quattrocento, when Northern Italian bankers perfected a number of ideas necessary for modern banking,…

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ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY Health policy is not immune from neoliberal infection

Is there a connection between neoliberalism and health policy? Certainly. One of the most comforting, and fallacious, assumptions of modern life is that a desired change can be effec­ted and yet leave all our other desired outcomes undisturbed. Neoliberalism and health policy is no exception. Without neoliberalism we had a fairly satisfactory public health system…

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ECONOMICS AND SOCIETY Mondragon Corporation: humanity at work

Andrew Dunn is a lawyer and a member of the Queensland DLP. Dunn, who visited Spain in late 2017, gives us an insight into how cooperatives operate in Arrasate-Mondragón, in the Basque Region of that country. Rooted in the social teaching of the Catholic Church, and inspired by Basque priest Fr José María Arizmendiarrieta, the…

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ECONOMICS Trade wars: tariffs unlikely to be fired in anger

One can’t pick up a paper these days without some notable economist or think tank warning of the imminent possibility of a trade war. Why? Because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s somewhat unorthodox efforts to impose higher tariffs (increased taxes) on sensitive U.S. imports, initially steel and aluminium. It is no secret that the main…

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ECONOMICS AND CHINA Eyes averted from the dragon in the marketplace

Regular readers of News Weekly will be familiar with the term “Washington Consensus”. Patrick J. Byrne and I have written extensively about its malevolent influence on the Australian economy. The Washington Consensus was conceived by a combination of committed free market economists endorsing the views of the U.S. Treasury, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and…

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ECONOMICS Kim Beazley rides in as a white knight for the TPP

Since his arrival back in Australia after around six years as our ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley (pictured below) has seemed to be trying to establish himself as something of an expert in matters geopolitical. Now apparently, he is extending his expertise to matters of international trade as well – if not globally,…

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ECONOMICS China intends to party like it’s 1949 … again

I’m not the only Australian wondering about China. The question for me had always been, which direction China would take. Would it fully embrace the conventional (even neo-liberal) capitalist model, and follow the United States by fully embracing the market economy model, or did it really believe in the kind of communism followed by the…

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MANUFACTURING Auto industry loss result of government policy failure

The closure of Holden’s Elizabeth plant on October 20, 2017, ended automotive mass production in Australia for the foreseeable future. This date marks one of the blackest days in the nation’s industrial history and the flow-on effects of this closure will entail the loss of up to 50,000 jobs and the businesses that provided them.…

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MANUFACTURING Australia’s once and future car industry

    WHAT HAPPENED TO THE CAR INDUSTRY? by Ian Porter, with cartoons by Mark Knight and John Spooner Scribe, Melbourne, 2016 Paperback: 128 pages ISBN: 9781925321500 AUD$24.99 Reviewed by Jeffry Babb      Always back the horse named self-interest, son. It’ll be the only one trying. Jack “The Big Fella” Lang,Premier of NSW, 1925–27,…

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Rating the ratings agencies: FFF and “Watch out”

The election had hardly moved off media centre stage than we were bombarded by the pontifications of self-styled “ratings agency” Standard & Poor’s. Actually S&P and its like are less agencies than businesses that in a competitive environment assess the creditworthiness of businesses (and more recently governments). Competition pressures have sometimes resulted in these agencies…

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ECONOMICS AND POLITICS Overhauling Australia will require more than a tinker

I have just finished reading the most recent issue of Quarterly Essay. The piece by George Megalogenis entitled “Balancing act: Australia between recession and renewal”, takes 25,000 words to tell us what is wrong with our country – most notably in the area of what some might call our political economy. Restarting Australia’s economic engine…

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ECONOMICS Oil offers resistance to free market’s operation

In the late 1930s John Maynard Keynes’ general theory of economics turned orthodox economic thinking on its head. Orthodoxy proclaimed that price flexibility in a free market would ensure that all output of goods and services, including labour, would be fully utilised. Although the price of crude oil may drop, there is no guarantee that…

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PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION Free trade agreements of doubtful use: review

In its recently published Trade and Assistance Review 2013-14, the Productivity Commission has questioned the benefit to Australia of the much-touted free trade agreements, pointing out that they have never been subject to proper cost-benefit analyses. The Productivity Commission is a significant influence on government policy, and has traditionally been one of the main drivers…

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ECONOMICS Productivity: do we understand it at all?

Productivity is widely discussed in the media, though rarely to useful purpose. The nature of these discussions – even among those in the business media – mostly reveals a widespread misunderstanding of the subject. Ann Pettifor The same is true for the business community itself. Business spokes-people never make clear (either because they don’t understand…

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ECONOMICS Mainstream squabbles: much ado about nothing

The exchange between the former chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke and Harvard University economist Lawrence Summers in their attempts to account for why there has been no real recovery from the 2007-08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has fascinated mainstream economic circles. Ben Bernanke Summers, it will be recalled, has been a leading…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Two problems the PM must tackle boldly

Two problems confront the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott First, he must find a way to dump much of the damaging ideological baggage he and his party have so far insisted on carrying into government. Secondly, he must allow the creation of a workable and politically neutral institutional framework in which to identify, prioritise…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS If Abbott can back Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank…

While the Commonwealth government’s infrastructure development program proceeds at a snail’s pace, the Prime Minister Mr Tony Abbott has announced that Australia is likely to support China’s planned US$100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Tony Abbott Mr Abbott’s move followed announcements by the UK, France, Germany and Italy that they will support the new…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Taiwan leads the way with the knowledge economy

When I began studying economics in the early 1970s, a country’s “resources” were things like minerals and crops. With the rise of Japan, which has very little in the way of these sorts of physical resources, it became clear that this definition was inadequate. Japan, a resource-poor country, was rapidly overtaking Australia, a resource-rich economy.…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA How Tony Abbott can become the ‘infrastructure PM’

Tony Abbott wants to be known as the infrastructure Prime Minister. A major infrastructure program would likely win over many Australians who are in fear of losing their jobs. Prime Minister Tony Abbott Many leading economists and economic institutions are saying that in this time of global secular economic stagnation, which could go on for…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS EU economies locked into long-term low growth

Regular News Weekly readers will be aware of this writer’s views about the problems of Europe. Now it’s time for an update.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel As time passes, more emerges to help explain the continuing strange behaviour of those operating the economic and political levers of the European Union. In practice, we are talking…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Lesson of Japan’s debt-free economic stimulus

This article starts with a puzzle — like those we find in a Christmas cracker. However, the answer to this puzzle is more complicated and difficult than the sort we might find in a cracker.  Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan “What is the difference between our current Treasurer borrowing on the Commonwealth government’s account…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Small business the casualty of misguided ‘competition’ policy

Exponents of free market economics talk endlessly about competition, as if it were the driving force of capitalism. It isn’t. On the basis of their fundamental premise, anything less than unbridled price competition, resulting in a race to the bottom, will supposedly short-change consumers. Graeme Samuel AC A race to the bottom on price, however,…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA Critical China free trade agreement based on what?

How can the Commonwealth government evaluate gains to agriculture from a China free trade agreement (FTA), if it doesn’t know whether the key market for Australian farmers is the domestic one or the one for exports? Australian agriculture has benefited little from the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement concluded in April this year. It did not…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS A change in economic direction is sorely needed

Economics, as a discipline, has rarely been free from the temptation to cloak ordinarily simple propositions — frequently of questionable value — in difficult and confusing language. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Dr Janet Yellen  Perhaps there is a reliable rule-of-thumb applicable to this practice: the more difficult and confusing the explanatory language, the more questionable…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS Minimum wage is the cornerstone of the family wage

The United States minimum wage is not the cause of high unemployment among American blacks, nor are large amounts of government-to-government aid being siphoned off today by corrupt leaders in developing nations, as claimed by Hal G.P. Colebatch. These claims were made in Dr Colebatch’s review in News Weekly (August 16, 2014) of Jason L.…

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AUSTRALIAN MANUFACTURING How Australia can rebuild its car industry

Western Australian state Liberal parliamentarian Peter Abetz (brother of Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz) argues that Australia still has the capacity to develop a flourishing car industry. Peter Abetz MP I believe that the decision to allow the car industry in Australia to come to an end will have very serious implications, not only in…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Growing inequality in an era of economic stagnation

This writer has recently worked his way through a remarkable new book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Harvard University Press), written by French economist Thomas Piketty, and brilliantly translated into English by Arthur Goldhammer. Thomas Piketty It is the result of some 20 years’ research by its author and his many assistants. Notably, the book…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Ireland to establish a development bank

Of the European countries hit hardest by the global financial crisis (GFC), Ireland has proved to be one of the more economically resilient. Now it is establishing a development bank focused on building small to medium-sized enterprises. This move offers some lessons for Australia. Here are some reasons why. Enda Kenny, Prime Minister of Ireland…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Cut the deficit while boosting infrastructure

Treasurer Joe Hockey could cut his infrastructure budget by $50 billion, while establishing an Infrastructure Finance Corporation to put hundreds of billions into developing the nation’s infrastructure. The Treasurer’s heavy cuts in the recent federal Budget are aimed at reducing the budget deficit and overall government debt. It’s proving extremely unpopular, with the ALP well…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can banks create money out of thin air?

The global financial crisis in 2007/08, which came close to destroying the world economy, had its beginnings in a banking crisis. The reasons why need not bother us here. But a consequence of it has been to cast the spotlight on banking and money mismanagement associated with the GFC. Economists who adhere to neo-classical free-market…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Cut the deficit but create a long-term investment bank

Federal governments are different from businesses, because in many important ways they can have their cake and eat it too. They can cut budget expenditure and government debt, while at the same time making major investments in the economy through a long-term investment bank. And they can do both while keeping their AAA-rating for borrowing…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Sorting out the confusion over Australia’s agricultural exports

There is widespread confusion over how to measure the proportion of Australia’s agricultural output that is destined for export. In the last issue of News Weekly (April 26),[1] we asked whether exports are worth 80 per cent, 70 per cent, 60 per cent or just 25 per cent of the earnings from agriculture. Agriculture Minister…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Infrastructure and superannuation: a match made in heaven?

Infrastructure is the flavour of the month for both investors and the Commonwealth government. Former Victorian state Liberal politician, the Hon. Mark Birrell, was appointed in early April to head Infrastructure Australia, replacing Sir Rod Eddington AO. Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared that Infrastructure Australian will build a “strong and prosperous economy”, and that…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Does Australia export 274 per cent of its wine production?

If the headline to this article sounds ridiculous, you are correct. But this figure is symptomatic of the problem faced by Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce in setting new policy directions for Australian agriculture from their current inquiry into agricultural competitiveness. Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.  In recent times, our governments have been told…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Why economists failed to predict 2007/08 meltdown

The 2007/08 global financial crisis (GFC), which almost demolished the world’s financial system, must sooner or later reshape the way we should evaluate politics and economics. William R. White  Finance and the real economy — the latter being that part of the economy that actually produces goods and services — will eventually “recover” in some…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Fixing the distorted high Australian dollar

The white-anting of Australian industries has been caused partly by the abnormally high exchange-value of the Australian dollar in terms of other currencies. The dollar’s value has been driven upwards by the resources boom and high interest rates. Ask any farmer, car industry executive or any owner of a manufacturing business across the country: what…

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ECONOMIC AGENDA: Abbott government needs an economic agenda

The Coalition government has yet to develop an economic strategy in the face of major industries terminating their operations in Australia. Air Vice-Marshal (Retd) John Blackburn AO.  Ford, Holden and Toyota have announced that they will be shutting down car manufacturing in Australia.  Soon, Alcoa will have closed two of its six aluminium-refining plants, and…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Harvard economist re-thinks free-market orthodoxy

Outside academic economic circles the United States economist Lawrence H. “Larry” Summers is perhaps not widely known in Australia. He is, however, a major and influential figure in the U.S. — both in academia and government. A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he has been, among other things, Treasury Secretary under President Bill…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Middle-class families struggling on two incomes

The large-scale absorption of women into the paid workforce of the developed world began after about 1970. Some praised it as a step towards the emancipation of women. Others worried over the fact that families with both husband and wife working outside the home could adversely affect the traditional structure of family life. What seemed…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Will exports or our home market be our salvation?

Over the last 30 years, incoming Australian governments have been able to govern on the basis that the economic fundamentals — both domestically and internationally — would continue unchanged. The impact of global financial crisis has shaken the world clear of that comfortable assumption. A recent gathering of central bankers in the United States agreed…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: How will trade and agriculture stack up under the Coalition?

True to all of the indications of Coalition intentions before the election, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has undergone a radical change. Its trade function has been separated from foreign affairs and recreated as a stand-alone department with the added function of investment. The new Trade Minister is Andrew Robb. This has…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Funding the expansion of Australia’s infrastructure

Mobilising superannuation funds for infrastructure development, in order to insulate Australia from the ongoing global financial crisis, should be a high priority for the next federal government. Of the $1,300 billion Australians have now invested in superannuation, only $40-65 billion (3 to 5 per cent) is invested in infrastructure. Further, most of this is invested…

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INDUSTRY: A solution to the motor manufacturing crisis

The announced closure of the Ford manufacturing operation in Victoria from 2016, the loss of 400 jobs at Holden’s manufacturing operation in Adelaide, and Holden’s threat to close manufacturing unless governments invest $500 million over the next five years, are the storm clouds threatening the future of motor manufacturing in Australia. Without a critical mass,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: ‘Prophetic’ Garnaut warns of belt-tightening to come

Professor Ross Garnaut has been effusively hailed as “our most prophetic economist” by the economics editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins, in an article he wrote with the headline, “Garnaut cries from the wilderness” (SMH, June 3, 2013). Not everyone would necessarily share Mr Gittins’s enthusiasm for Professor Garnaut’s prophecies. Garnaut has been…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Small business — too big to ignore

Small business is the key driving force of economic growth, employment and entrepreneurial innovation in Australia. Across the nation two million small business operators employ seven million Australians. Straddling all industry sectors, small business time and again throughout our history has demonstrated its resilience and cleverness in adjusting to difficult and changing times. Major corporations…

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EDITORIAL: After the Ford closure: the future of the car industry

Ford’s announcement of the closure of its manufacturing operations in Australia from 2016, with the loss of over 600 jobs in Geelong and over 500 at Broadmeadows in Victoria, is a body blow to the motor manufacturing industry, affecting hundreds of component manufacturers and thousands of their employees across the country. It will leave only…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: A debt-free way to lift output and employment

The federal Budget will have come before parliament by the time this article is published. However, this article is about budgetary processes rather than budget specifics. A fundamental question is this — how come our political leaders seem to know so little about managing public finance with a sovereign currency and floating exchange rates? The…

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HOUSING: Home ownership still out of reach

Home ownership is still out of the reach of many Australian families compared to 30 years ago. Recently, the 9th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey ranked Australia as having one of the most expensive housing markets of the countries surveyed. According to the report’s authors, Wendell Cox and Hugh Pavletich, the major contributory factor…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Currency, manufacturing and trade policy

Issues revolving around currency, manufacturing and trade are central to economic policy. They are also interconnected, and impact economically and strategically on national welfare. Governments have a responsibility to ensure that economic policy serves national ends, without concession to economic fads or narrow political objectives. Some 35 years ago in both the US and Australia,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Leadership needed to overcome global slump

The world is struggling to find leaders capable of solving the global economic crisis that has left many nations with huge debts, high unemployment and vast inequalities. Before the 2008 global financial crisis (GFC), the captains of finance and industry could use the annual Davos economic summit to trumpet the virtues of “deep” economic globalisation,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Currency war unleashes new world disorder

Those not yet convinced about the problems of an overvalued Australian dollar should consider the following: Currently, around US$1.05 is needed to buy AUD$1.00. For decades US70 to 80 cents could purchase AUD$1.00. On that basis, we are effectively giving imports from overseas a 20 to 30 per cent subsidy over our domestic industries —…

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THE ECONOMY: Latest bizarre twist in mining tax saga

When Julia Gillard announced that her government was introducing a new mining tax on July 2, 2010, she described it as a “breakthrough agreement” with three of Australia’s largest mining companies that would “underpin major economic reforms that will strengthen our economy so we can move forward together with confidence”. The mining tax, officially described…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Time to reappraise the Washington Consensus?

Regular readers of News Weekly will be familiar with the term Washington Consensus, even though the term, originally coined in the United States, is seldom used in Australia. When used here, it has usually been associated with a strict free-market approach to economic management, characterised by the pursuit of small government, lower taxation, deregulation of…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Radical bank reform that could help end economic instability

The world financial system, as we all know, is drowning in debt. Although it is not the only thing wrong with the world economy, it remains nevertheless the main drag on world growth prospects. 1930s-style austerity packages, with a record of failure behind them, have proven once again not to be the answer. Nor are…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Dow chief’s plan for rebuilding Australian manufacturing

Now that the inevitable end of Australia’s latest mining boom is upon us, debate has belatedly turned on to how to rejuvenate our other key industry sectors, especially manufacturing. Given the complete absence of any serious policy consideration or formulation about manufacturing at the national level — and, in the case of the federal Treasury,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: What is productivity and why is it important?

Anyone who even glances at the business pages of our daily newspapers will realise productivity is a perennial topic of discussion. Few people, however, can tell you what productivity is and why it is important. In its simplest economic sense, productivity is defined as a measure of how efficiently and effectively the main factors of…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Cubbie Station sale exposes weak foreign ownership rules

The decision by the federal Treasurer, Wayne Swan, to approve the sale of Australia’s largest rural property, Queensland’s Cubbie Station, with the largest water entitlement, to a consortium led by a Chinese government-owned corporation, has highlighted the weakness of Australia’s foreign investment rules. Cubbie Station went into receivership some years ago, and the receivers are…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Enterprise bank urgently needed for Australia

Small business is the backbone of the market economy, goes the myth. In terms of employment percentages: yes — probably also innovatory potential. In terms of market and governmental support: no. A key arena where small and medium-sized enterprises (henceforth SMEs) experience adversity is in the raising of capital for both start-up and for expansion.…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Will Australians or foreign interests develop our north?

Three policy papers soon to be released by the Liberals on developing northern Australia beg the question: with Australia still addicted to foreign borrowing, who will develop the north — Australians or foreign investors? Prompted by recent huge floods, the Liberals are about to release two papers aimed at building new dams and opening vast…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Drastic measures needed to save European Union

Harvard economist Dani Rodrik tells us we can have only two of the following — economic globalisation, political democracy and national sovereignty. This “political trilemma”, Professor Rodrik believes, gives rise to much of the current stress in the global economic system. He further argues that the tensions currently existing within the European Union are similarly…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: The case against floating exchange rates

Early in February, when I addressed the National Civic Council’s annual conference in Melbourne, a young, well-informed participant caught up with me during the coffee break. He asked a number of questions, but, most notably, about floating exchange rates. “You say that floating exchange rates disrupt the international trading system,” he said. “How do you…

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RESOURCES: Building a better future without a carbon tax

Sometimes I think we as a nation forget important fundamentals. Natural resources and people on the land and in our north contribute a major portion of the inherent wealth of our country. This was recognised as a key factor which helped Australia avoid the previous global economic crisis. We have another global economic crisis approaching,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Behind the trade-induced global financial crisis

The global economic crisis has created civil and political unrest across Europe and the US, while in the Middle East newly educated, angry unemployed youth are bringing down old military autocracies. World-wide unemployment is 210 million, the highest in history, with the world needing to create another 440 million jobs in the next decade for…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Rising inequality generating global social unrest

Across the globe, the proportion of national income going to wages has been falling for three decades, made worse by the global financial crisis (GFC) and austerity measures. It also explains the growing social unrest across Europe and the United States. Labour’s share of the economic pie varies across the business cycle, but has been…

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THE ECONOMY: Australia must change to maintain its prosperity

Australia’s leading businesswoman, Gina Rinehart, has warned that Australia risks jeopardising its economic prosperity unless it reconsiders the mining and carbon taxes, and addresses constraints on the development of its mineral resources and northern development. This is an abridged version of her address to the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) Business Summit in Perth. In…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Still coming to grips with the global financial crisis

World leaders have not yet come to grips with the causes, let alone the solutions, to the global financial crisis (GFC), which now threatens to evolve into a global depression. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist and professor at Columbia University, has identified three fundamental problems that caused the financial crisis of 2008 (Project Syndicate,…

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CARBON TAX: Power industry warns Canberra against carbon tax

The Australian power industry’s peak body, the National Generators Forum, has warned the Federal Government that its carbon tax will impose massive costs on electricity generators, businesses and consumers, while having little impact on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The forum represents all sections of the power industry, both government and private. It also covers…

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INDUSTRY: Sophie Mirabella’s vision for manufacturing in Australia

The shadow minister for manufacturing and innovation, Sophie Mirabella, has highlighted the need for new government initiatives to help Australian manufacturing industry to survive and flourish. Speaking to the National Press Club recently, she warned of “a deep, widespread and prolonged pessimism about the state of Australian manufacturing”. She said: “There is mounting awareness in…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: The do-nothing approach that’s crippling our economy

Describing the current status of the Australian dollar as “high” or “low” is not strictly accurate. The value of any currency — including ours — can only be usefully measured relative to the currencies of our important trading partners at any given moment. On this measure ours has been “high” for a very long time,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Australian manufacturing at the crossroads

On Friday, September 2, the ABC midday news reported that 9,000 jobs had been lost in recent weeks, many of them in manufacturing. It capped off a series of disastrous retrenchment announcements by major Australian companies, including the 1,400 jobs lost in BlueScope Steel. Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, claimed manufacturing…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Economic illusions have misled world leaders

One of the astonishing things about economic and political commentary in Australia is how ill-informed are opinion-formers and politicians about the world around us — especially those who remain convinced about the virtues of economic globalism. Take China, for example. For the last two decades, Australian commentators have insisted that Deng Xiaoping’s economic revolution, which…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Lessons from the global financial crisis

Boom and bust are inherent features of capitalism. The tendency to episodes of over-confidence, even mania, is present in many people, maybe especially the most creative. The message of history is that occasionally, perhaps under modern conditions more frequently, there is a tendency to episodes of collective optimism or even mania. These episodes always end…

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FOREIGN TRADE: Anti-dumping rhetoric no assistance to local industry

Quite why the Gillard Labor Government has announced a revised approach to the import of goods into Australia at below market prices (what is technically called dumping) is not clear. If genuinely new rules had been devised for protecting Australian manufacturers against unfair pricing from import competition, that would be cause for celebration. The changes…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: China’s growth is unsustainable

The next major shock to the world economy could come from Europe (see “Could global tsunami bring down the Eurozone?”, News Weekly, June 11, 2011), or, as New York University Professor Nouriel Roubini argues, it could come from China. Europe’s strategy is to hold off the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and particularly Spain), from…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Could global tsunami bring down the Eurozone?

The world’s banking regulatory authority has warned that more financial shocks are inevitable and that Australia may be at the centre of the next shock. The world’s top banking regulator has told the Australian Financial Review (May 30, 2011) that it will be impossible to avoid a repeat of the financial failures that brought on…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Why a carbon tax is self-defeating

Before a couple of international calamities intervened, global warming and, in particular, the merits or otherwise of a “carbon tax” were dominating the local media. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is apparently convinced that we must have a tax on anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in order to combat climate change. By a small margin, the rest…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Mondragón worker co-ops ride out global slump

Europe and the United States continue to suffer levels of economic stagnation and joblessness not seen since the 1930s. But the small town of Mondragón in the mountainous Basque region of northern Spain boasts an innovative business model which has successfully weathered the global economic downturn. Some of Mondragón’sworker co-operatives. The Mondragón Co-operative Corporation is…

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HOUSING: Australia has the least affordable housing

Australia has the highest priced housing relative to household incomes in the English speaking world, according to the 7th Annual Demographia International Housing Survey: 2011. In Australia’s major housing markets, median house prices are 7.1 times median household income, a level exceeded only by Hong Kong at 11.4. The annual survey rates city and national…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Politicians shirking their duty by bank-bashing

Bank-bashing – does it make sense? Actually, no. To be sure, the banks haven’t handled themselves very well. In a global financial storm, they seldom do. Accordingly, they haven’t been so much out of favour for a very long time – probably not since the 1930s Great Depression. Their small borrowers – mostly home-buyers, wrestling…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Global currency war and the new protectionism

When the Australian dollar reached parity with the US dollar, political foreheads on both sides of Australian politics merely creased imperceptibly. Our leaders seem not to recognise that if the tentacles of a currency crisis are indeed beginning to take hold of the world economy, we won’t escape their grasp. Recognised even less are the…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Has the United States finally run out of tricks?

The debate still rages (and “rages” is no hyperbole in this case) over how the United States should treat the malaise in which it finds itself following the global financial crisis of three years ago. Unlike discussion on this issue in Australia, the US debate is deadly serious and driven by more than politics. Protagonists…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: A future fund to secure Australia’s prosperity

The Commonwealth Government future fund should become a major sovereign wealth fund, used to ensure that resource industries remain in Australian hands and as a source of lending to business in the event of a major credit squeeze. In the wake of the global financial crisis (GFC), Europe and the United States are currently suffering…

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HOUSING: Rampant divorce pricing young couples out of homes

For decades, Australia has borne very high costs for the reckless disregard by some of its governments for families generally and for marriages in particular. This indifference is perhaps primarily exemplified by Senator Lionel Murphy’s Family Law Act of 1975. The costs of family and marriage breakdowns include personal misery in all its manifestations –…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Thirty-year experiment with non-intervention

John Hewson’s recent article in the Australian Financial Review was headlined: “Fiscal policy is too important to be left to politicians”. Dr Hewson is dead wrong. Actually, the opposite is true. Fiscal policy – the framing of a national budget – is too important to be left to economists. ln a democracy, that’s the job…

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FOREIGN TRADE: China slowdown spells trouble for Australia

An assumption underlying the Rudd Government’s resources super profits tax (RSPT) on mining is that the China market will, if not markedly grow, at least remain at its current high levels into the foreseeable future. But will it? Has the Rudd Government found an El Dorado that economists outside the Treasury have failed to fully…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Regulators crack down on speculation

The global economy is now so intertwined that what happens overseas will inevitably affect Australia, as recent events in southern Europe demonstrate. Fitch, a ratings agency, cut the credit rating on Spain, meaning that Spain will have to pay more to borrow money on the international financial markets. Spain’s troubles reverberated around the world and…

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Economic illiteracy (letter)

Sir, In justifying his proposed resource rent tax, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd takes the populist line that the Australian people should enjoy a greater share of the so-called “super profits” that mining companies are currently earning by exploiting “their” mineral resources. Putting aside for a moment the obvious point that these companies already make a…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Fault-lines widen in world’s financial system

The collapse of Lehman Brothers investment bank in 2008 triggered the global financial crisis. Should Greece default on its debt, a second crisis could be precipitated, but the world cannot afford another massive bailout. The crisis has challenged the foundations of economic globalism. Globalism is free trade ideology, embracing unrestricted deregulation of the global financial…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Privatisation has failed to deliver cheaper electricity

One of Melbourne’s savvier economic and political brains, John Legge, reminds us of what a bad deal our community has got from privatisation. He used the announcement of the introduction of new electricity meters by the Victorian government to make his points. (John Legge, “Smart meters another dumb economic idea”, The Age, April 13, 2010).…

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FOREIGN TRADE: Australian shareholders suspicious of China’s motives

Any investor loves a takeover battle. Institutional shareholders, representing the “big end of town”, frequently accumulate large stakes in takeover targets and want to make top dollars from their investments. Often, they are not even Australian – the notorious international hedge funds just take their money and run, as they did before the taxman could…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Gathering crisis engulfs the European Union

The global financial crisis threatens to disturb the stability of the European Union. Some are hinting at the possibility of the EU coming apart. Its currency unit, the Euro, could be under threat. These are genuine possibilities, but they aren’t the real issue. European integration has been a central pillar of European security since the…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Greek crisis tips Europe towards double-dip recession

Following the Wall Street collapse of August 2007, Western Europe followed the United States into recession, which was alleviated by massive injections of public funds in 2008 and 2009. Now these stimulus packages are returning to haunt Western European countries. Several governments, including those of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, face mounting difficulty in…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Australian manufacturing: does it have a future?

Australia is a relatively young country, but Australians have been manufacturing things for a long time. This is hardly surprising as the country was founded by the most advanced industrial and economic power of the 19th century. From the earliest times, the flow of capital and skilled labour from Britain was continuous and beneficial, providing…

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Federal, state governments veto northern development

Limping through the first crucial sitting of the Parliament in an election year, members of the Rudd Government are a worried bunch, with marginal seat-holders fearing the worst, and others developing doubts about the capacity of the Prime Minister to lead them over the long term. A Federal Government taskforce has torpedoed the idea of…

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ECONOMICS: Rising interest rates create speculative bubble

The problem of foreign debt has bobbed up again, following a book written by Professor Ross Garnaut. Garnaut is well remembered as the driving force behind the Hawke/Keating government’s determination to embrace free market ideology, with its program of privatising of public utilities, deregulating financial markets and slashing tariffs. Subsequently, John Howard’s Coalition government took…

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ECONOMICS: The taming of unbridled free market capitalism

So far as the financial crisis and its aftermath are concerned, the internet is awash with views, speculation and advice from Northern Hemisphere experts about what happened, why and – most important of all – what are the longer term implications for the real economy that actually produces goods and services. This writer is fortunate…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: New foreign investment rules still fall short

According to Nationals spokesman Senator Barnaby Joyce, new rules to limit investment by foreign government-owned companies are not wide enough to stop such companies from taking a major stake in Australian resource industries. Under the new rules, investment in new green-fields developments would be limited to 50 per cent, while investment in major producers (presumably…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Immigration and Australia’s economic future

Immigration is back on the political agenda. This is hardly surprising after the announcement that 276,000 new arrivals entered Australia last year. Among the questions being asked is whether we have an upper limit on yearly numbers. Another question is whether we cope with these numbers. Like it or not, most of the intake will…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Policy-makers still refusing to face reality

On the first anniversary of the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank, many people are asking how much policy-makers and economists, looking back, are prepared to admit what precisely went wrong and how it might be corrected. The inspiration for this article comes from distinguished US economist Professor Paul Krugman’s recent essay, “How did economists…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Ireland follows Iceland in financial meltdown

Following the international financial crisis which has forced Latvia, Hungary, Romania, Iceland and Ukraine to receive full-scale bailouts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this year, Ireland has become the latest European nation to feel the full impact of the collapse in its financial system. The economic crisis is now threatening to undermine the political…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: China businesses ‘left and right arms of the state’

Walk down a leafy street in Beijing and, amongst the imposing head offices of China’s most important enterprises, you will find Minmetals, advertising its presence in the upper strata of Chinese companies with bold, bright red letters. This is the state-owned company that successfully bid for Australian miner OZ Minerals. The outcome of Chinalco’s bid…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Rebuilding a functioning financial system

An American journalist, writing in the Australian Financial Review, chided economists for failing to anticipate the financial collapse and its aftermath. This failing he attributed to the notorious dislike orthodox economists have for history. True enough. Free market economists have certainly turned their collective backs on history. They prefer, instead, to believe in a set…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Promised benefits from free trade fail to materialise

Avid economic fundamentalist Dr Andy Stoeckel, head of the Centre for International Economics (CIE), is at it again. He proclaims that every Australian family has been made $3,000 better off every year by our embracing “free trade”. The CIE has long been a voice of those arguing that farming and manufacturing should be cut free…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Economic crisis parallels the Great Depression

Australia’s banks face a foreign borrowing crisis, leaving the nation vulnerable as the global financial crisis tracks a similar path to the early stages of the Great Depression. In analysing a recent report comparing the current global slump to the Great Depression of the 1930s, associate editor and chief economic commentator at the UK’s Financial…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Fundamental change is needed, but probably won’t happen

The Global Financial Crisis is set to become a prolonged slump, because vested national interests and narrow ideological convictions are likely to stifle necessary reforms, argues Patrick J. Byrne. Describing the behaviour of the banking system, Martin Wolf, associate editor and chief economic commentator at the Financial Times, has said, “The UK has a strategic…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Re-inventing the wheel of international trade

The world’s chronically-unbalanced trading system has been the trigger for the financial crash, writes Colin Teese. After 25 years, the world seems to be giving up on the failed experiment of free market fundamentalism, although it hasn’t yet totally abandoned some commitment to free trade. Such has been the enthusiasm for this recent orthodoxy that…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: IMF’s global outlook: expect the worst

The IMF, for the fifth time in six months, has revised downward its economic forecast. In view of this worsening outlook, Kevin Rudd’s optimistic projections for 2010 seem dangerously naïve, argues Peter Westmore. The International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook, released last month, forecast a decline in the world’s economic growth this year for the…

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TRADE: Government pushes China free trade agreement

Kevin Rudd is continuing to push for a free trade agreement with China, despite evidence that earlier such agreements have damaged Australia’s economy by worsening the country’s trade deficit. Peter Westmore reports. The Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is continuing to push for a free trade agreement with China, despite evidence that earlier such agreements have…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can free trade theory survive the global slump?

Free-traders don’t like the idea that the response to shrinking demand puts most emphasis on rebuilding domestic real economies and employment, writes Colin Teese. According to former federal Labor leader Mark Latham, “A small, open economy can only grow as fast as its trading partners.” If Latham is right, Australia is in trouble – along…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: After meltdown, who will provide for retirees?

The Australian Government needs to conduct a full-scale examination of income support for retirees, argues Colin Teese. Superannuation – or, more properly, so-called superannuation – is under scrutiny by the government. Not much is likely to come out of it. Quite possibly, this study will look at no more than how the present system might be…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Targeted spending needed to promote Australian jobs

Rudd’s stimulus package must not be dissipated on consumption spending on imports, for this will only generate economic activity overseas, warns Colin Teese. Many responsible Americans – and not just free-market fundamentalists – have expressed misgivings over the cost of President Obama’s US$750 billion stimulus package, just as many responsible Australians have questioned Prime Minister…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: China’s spending spree: our sovereignty at risk

China’s state-owned corporation Chinalco’s attempt to take a major stake in mining giant Rio Tinto signals a massive escalation of Beijing’s buy-up of mineral, energy and real-estate assets around the world, particularly in Australia. It is imperative that the Rudd Government tighten the foreign investment rules to defend Australia’s economic sovereignty, argues Patrick J. Byrne.…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Obstacles on the road to economic recovery

The benefits of any economic stimulus will be limited, says Colin Teese, because there is little manufacturing industry left in Australia to stimulate. The global financial crisis has so far cost the world 20 per cent more, in today’s dollars, than the United States spent on fighting World War II, according to banking giant Goldman…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can Rudd save Australia from the global slump?

Neither side of Australian politics is offering a sustainable program to cope with the international financial crisis that is pushing Australia towards an economic precipice. Patrick J. Byrne reports. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has produced a $42 billion stimulus package and published a long essay, “The global financial crisis” (The Monthly, February, 2009), which accurately…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Can Australia avoid an economic depression?

Australia escaped the financial crises of recent years; but minimising the impact of the current world-wide meltdown will be a tight balancing act, made more difficult by the nation’s huge foreign debt, writes Patrick J. Byrne. Recently, the consultancy Access Economics warned that Australia cannot avoid the recession engulfing the major economies — and the…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Unlocking the riddle of the global financial crisis

Two global financial strategists have shown that central banks control only 10 per cent of total global liquidity. The other 90 per cent is accounted for by derivatives and securitised debt, reports Colin Teese. NEW MONETARISM by David Roche and Bob McKee(London: Lulu Enterprises) Paperback: 96 pagesRec. price: AUD$14.95 Understanding a financial crisis is not…

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ASIA: China exports recession to Taiwan

For Taiwan, the China boom is well and truly over, reports Jeffry Babb. Different nations have different expectations of governments. These days, for example, most people in Australia don’t expect government to be a major housing provider. Getting residents out of welfare housing is almost impossible, even when their economic situation improves. Most Australians would…

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GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS: Disentangling the new world disorder

The priority of financial institutions should be to fund the development and maintenance of the real economy, writes Colin Teese. Don’t get too excited just yet about the G20 summit. The rest of the world is yet to share our view of its importance. More than anything else, this probably explains why President George W. Bush,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Market failure and the difficult path ahead

Much still needs to be done if the real economy is to be insulated against the consequences of market failure, writes Colin Teese. Former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, admits that he is in “a state of shocked disbelief” as the ideological underpinnings of his economic philosophy crumble about him. National leaders…

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SUPERANNUATION: Development bank needed for Rudd’s nation-building

A German-style government-backed development bank could channel low-interest loans into new small and medium enterprises and national infrastructure projects, writes Patrick J. Byrne. A development bank would be an appropriate vehicle for channelling superannuation funds into infrastructure. There are over $1 trillion in Australian superannuation funds, minus losses from the recent economic turmoil. As it…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Can the US adjust to changing world realities?

If the US fails to recognise and adjust to changing world realities, it is destined to decline in influence, writes Colin Teese. A British Labour MP announced to the parliament that Adam Smith’s invisible hand had found its way into the pockets of the British taxpayer. His quip was a marvellous and timely send-up of deregulationist…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Australia facing external economic pressures

One-time federal Liberal leader Dr John Hewson has had second thoughts about whether the Reserve Bank of Australia is capable of exercising its traditional role in economic management. Colin Teese reports. One-time federal Liberal leader Dr John Hewson has had second thoughts about the best way to fight inflation, according to a recent article of…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Stronger rules needed on foreign investment

The Government is finding its foreign investment rules inadequate, given the sudden big jump in foreign investment from China. Patrick J. Byrne reports. While Australia is struggling to find a policy to handle foreign sovereign wealth fund (SWF) investments from countries like China, Germany has acted decisively to restrict SWF investment in local companies. Sovereign wealth funds are…

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Economic production needed, not speculation (letter)

Sir, Peter Westmore’s solutions for Australia’s economy (Editorial, News Weekly, August 16) correctly identify some of the problems, but his solutions would only shift the focus, not heal the economy. There is a difference between saving and not borrowing. The problem is that, since about 1991, Australian householders have been borrowing too much and largely…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Should we rescue imprudent banks?

Those running financial institutions are seldom chastened by the experience of over-lending and the collapse that inevitably follows, writes Colin Teese. To parody a cliché, “Nothing succeeds like excess.” The finance industry proves it. But for this we can’t really blame market failure. Financial markets don’t fail; the normal characteristics of market operation – the possibility…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Why the Doha trade round collapsed

The World Trade Organization (WTO) may well be condemned to limp into the future with a role far less influential than was once enjoyed by GATT, writes former senior trade negotiator Colin Teese. Negotiators at the World Trade Organization (WTO) have failed to reach agreement on a new trade liberalisation package. This outcome, however, should…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Sovereign Wealth Funds threaten Australia’s independence

Australians are yet to realise that this nation faces, not a military, but an economic threat to its independence, writes Patrick J. Byrne. Given Australia’s $616 billion net foreign debt, the huge foreign investment drive into Australia by some sovereign wealth funds is now posing a serious threat to Australia’s sovereignty. The federal Treasurer Wayne…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Australia’s sovereignty at stake

Seismic flaws in the economy could cost Australia its sovereignty and leave the nation beholden to savings-rich nations like China, especially if such countries take a major stake in Australia’s industries. Patrick J. Byrne reports. Under China’s “Go Abroad” policy – aimed at securing access to important raw materials, advanced technology and brand names –…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Rudd’s scheme for an EU-style Asian community

Is Kevin Rudd’s proposed scheme to unite our region in a European Union-style Asian economic community any more credible than the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum? In this, the first of two articles, Colin Teese, a former senior trade negotiator, discusses where the Rudd Plan is likely to lead us. As a policy developer, the…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Emissions-trading a “bureaucratic indulgence”

The cost of New Zealand’s emissions-trading scheme is a warning to Australia. Patrick J. Byrne reports. With the Garnaut report on an Australian emissions trading scheme (ETS) due in July, estimates from New Zealand’s ETS draft legislation show it could cost households NZ$19,000 annually by 2025. New Zealand contributes just 0.2 per cent of global…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: What happens after cheap credit, oil and food?

For 30 years, the world has been living on cheap credit, cheap food and cheap energy. That may be set to change, argues Patrick J. Byrne. Billionaire financial market speculator, George Soros, has warned that the credit crunch, started by the US sub-prime mortgage market collapse, could mean that the “financial bubble” of the last…

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OVERSEAS TRADE: US farm bill buries talk of free trade in agriculture

Why is it economically sound for the US to bail out financially embarrassed banks, but wrong for the US to help struggling farmers? The world’s central bankers have been applauded for handing out unprecedented subsidies to the financial markets after the sub-prime collapse, but subsidies to US, EU and Japanese farmers are being roundly condemned.…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Has financial deregulation finally been discredited?

Hands-off financial policies, far from stabilising markets, have so disrupted them that governments have had to intervene to prop them up. The financial crisis in the United States may have been contained, Princeton University economist Paul Krugman has suggested — cautiously — in a recent article. If that turns out to be true, Krugman, rightly,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Oil imports threaten to blow out foreign debt

Australia’s foreign debt has grown at around 6 per cent (or $60 billion) annually over the past four years. Patrick J. Byrne reports. Australia’s slow march to banana republic status continues, while Joseph Stiglitz, one of the world’s leading economists, has warned what happens to nations when foreign debts get out of hand. Australia’s net…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Australia reels under sub-prime fall-out

Could Australia be heading towards another bout of 1970s-style “stagflation” – that is, stagnant growth, unemployment and rising inflation? When the sub-prime financial crisis hit the United States, received opinion in Australia – which included this writer – believed that our economy would be unaffected by it, except perhaps for a slight backwash effect. That…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Reaping the whirlwind of financial deregulation

Nine years ago, under pressure from Wall Street, US Congress repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had been introduced during the 1930s Great Depression to regulate banking and control financial speculation. Now the US — along with many of its trading partners — is facing the unanticipated consequences of this decision. Colin Teese reports. No serious…

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MANUFACTURING: Car-making could be our flagship industry

Australia’s shrinking automotive industry is in dire trouble. However, if the right strategic changes were made, Australia could have an important, scale-efficient, high-quality automotive industry two or three times its current size, argues Craig Milne. Craig  Milne Despite record sales of new vehicles, Australian automotive manufacturing is in trouble. Evidence is provided by the spectacular…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Rudd Government to re-examine FTAs

Australia for the past 25 years has single-mindedly pursued free trade policies, even to the extent of unilaterally cutting its tariffs and thereby undermining its bargaining power with its trading partners. Former senior trade negotiator Colin Teese says that the Rudd Labor Government’s proposed re-evaluation of Australia’s free trade agreements is long overdue. Trade seems…

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THE ECONOMY: Higher interest rates the wrong way to cut inflation

Cutting government expenditure by about $30 billion would be the most effective and direct way to cut inflation rather than raising interest rates and inflicting mortgage stress on home-owners, writes Patrick J. Byrne. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has raised interest rates for the 12th time since May 2002. The early rises were a…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: The lessons of the past we so quickly forget

Today, Australian manufacturing industry is dying on its feet. However, this was not always so. A former senior trade negotiator Colin Teese explains the background to successful trade and industry policies of an earlier time, and considers why Australia came to drift so far off track. In discussing manufacturing industry policy it is impossible to…

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT: Risk for Australia in dependence on China

The government and people of Australia should think carefully how we should respond when Beijing comes knocking on our door with buckets of money and a shopping-list. Australia is a treasure house of minerals in a resource-starved world. We are attracting foreign investment as a lonely light on a dark night attracts insects. Interest is…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: China’s aggressive trade strategy pays off

China has been able to increase its exports and accumulate massive foreign-exchange reserves by ignoring free-market orthodoxy and ruthlessly pursuing its national self-interest, reports former Australian senior trade negotiator Colin Teese. United States pressure is mounting on China to relax its iron grip on the Chinese currency. This is not altogether surprising, given that the…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Global financial crisis – is the end in sight?

What are the likely long-term consequences for Australia of the recent global financial crisis? And what can we learn from this episode for the future? Colin Teese reports. We have all watched financial markets, worldwide, being disturbed by the collapse of a high-risk part of the US house-lending business – what the finance industry calls…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: WTO’s Doha round staggers to a stalemate

We are witnessing the collapse of the Doha trade round, leaving Australia with nothing to show for it, reports Colin Teese. The Doha Round of trade negotiations, being conducted under the umbrella of the World Trade Organization (WTO), is once again stalled. This time it might be realistic to assume that the stall is permanent. Who…

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HOUSING: Stable families improve house affordability

Excessive demand for housing in Australia is exacerbated by family breakdown, argues David Perrin. With a federal election due in the next few months, the issue of housing affordability is looming large as an election issue. House prices throughout Australia are at record levels and are a substantial barrier to first-home buyers ever realising the great…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Call for industry policy debate

Former ACCC chief Allan Fels and former editor of the Australian Financial Review Fred Brenchley have both said that Australia needs “to start questioning its mindset that opposes discriminatory industry policy and discriminatory trade negotiations”. Patrick J. Byrne reports. Ford Australia is planning to close its engine-plant in Geelong, Victoria, axing 600 jobs. In addition, an estimated…

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HOUSING: Home ownership: the unattainable dream?

How did Australia in the past succeed in making home ownership and rental accommodation accessible to lower-income families, asks Colin Teese. All the indicators seem to be depressingly clear. Housing affordability, generally, is a serious problem. We all know that house prices are continuing to increase to the point where they are beyond the reach…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Realistic emissions policy torpedoed by ideology

In the last News Weekly (June 9, 2007), Colin Teese argued that Australia could cut its CO2 emissions, with minimal adverse effect, by turning to alternative energy sources such as ethanol and nuclear power. However, as he argues here, such an approach would require government economic management and would hence be strenuously opposed by free-market…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Nuclear power, ethanol can cut CO2 emissions

How could Australia slash its carbon emissions with minimum adverse effect? Colin Teese looks at the options. The debate about climate change and its causes isn’t so much raging as plodding along. Meanwhile, a certain scepticism remains in the minds of some, including, that of the Prime Minister John Howard, notwithstanding his apparent conversion. Not…

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HOUSING: Soaring house prices give illusion of wealth

Why, despite the fact that we’re working longer and harder and earning more, is housing apparently less affordable than ever? Colin Teese finds some surprising answers. Some economists, especially the ideologically committed, have allowed themselves certain liberties when considering what the boom in house prices means for consumers. One such, Alan Mitchell of the Australian…

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OVERSEAS TRADE: Wheat-growers back single-desk selling

A survey of wheat-growers has shown 82 per cent support an ongoing single selling-desk structure for the marketing of Australian bulk wheat exports. Only 11 per cent supported multiple bulk sellers into overseas markets, and only 6 per cent wanted a totally deregulated system. Tony Windsor, independent federal MP for New England, sponsored the poll,…

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ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Australia’s foreign debt – myth and reality

Like the unacknowledged elephant in the room, Australia’s ballooning net foreign debt – now $520 billion – has been steadfastly ignored by the experts for too long, despite its potential to jeopardise the country’s future prosperity. Colin Teese reports. Under its new governor Glenn Stevens, the Reserve Bank of Australia has wasted no time in allowing…

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OVERSEAS TRADE: Wheat’s single selling-desk under threat

Australia’s single selling-desk for wheat has, over many years, secured a profitable market for Australia’s wheat exports. Ending this arrangement will damage the livelihoods of thousands of Australian wheat-growers, warns Colin Teese, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Trade. Warren Truss,Trade Minister It is a matter of record that the political debacle which has developed…

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THE ECONOMY: Qantas takeover bid – leave it to the market?

There are at least six compelling reasons why the Government should prevent Qantas from being taken over by Macquarie Bank and its U.S. associates, argues Sydney lawyer Robin Speed. Is the fate of Qantas under the proposed takeover a matter for the stock market or the Australian Government? If the takeover proceeds, Qantas will, for the…

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ECONOMICS: Free-market capitalism’s champion dies

Controversial Chicago University economist, Professor Milton Friedman, whose free-market ideology has had such a great impact on public policy around the world, has died aged 94, reports John Ballantyne. Milton Friedman(July 31, 1912 – November 16, 2006) Milton Friedman – famous populariser of free-market capitalism and winner of the 1976 Nobel Prize for economics – died on November 16,…

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THE ECONOMY: Wishful thinking about agriculture, manufacturing

Experts assure us that the predicted decline in Australia’s mineral exports will be easily offset by a strong recovery of our agriculture and manufacturing. Former deputy secretary of the Department of Trade Colin Teese pours cold water on such facile optimism. Random reporting in the Australian Financial Review a couple of weeks ago demonstrated (if…

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TRADE: The fate of Australian agriculture under globalisation

Colin Teese, a former deputy-director of the Department of Trade, recently addressed the Australian Innovative Farming Conference sponsored by the Nuffield Farming Scholars Association. The conference focus was on “Globalisation and its impact on Australian farming”. The following is an edited version of his paper. Australia has chosen to allow its domestic agricultural policy to…

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HOUSING: Urban planning is destroying the great Australian dream

Bob Day, a member of the Order of Australia, is Chairman of the Great Australian Dream Project, which aims to help every Australian family to own their own home. The address from which this article is taken was given to the Australian Christian Lobby’s National Conference in Canberra last month. Families are the lighthouses of…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Farmers protests over free trade in Cairns

Farmers and business people protested recently in Cairns against Australia’s lead in the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks on free trade in agriculture products. The “Cairns Group” of nations, led by Australia, was meeting in north Queensland to try and revive the stalled Doha round of trade talks on liberalizing trade in agricultural goods. The…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Australia’s blunders in trade negotiations

Australian trade policy has for too long been characterised by narrow economic ideology and a refusal to stand up for the national interest, argues former senior trade negotiator Colin Teese. More particularly, we have been too hasty in throwing away our most valuable bargaining chips in trade negotiations – for no gain whatsoever, and to…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Doha trade negotiations collapse irretrievably

Supporters of the globalist free-trade agenda have reacted with near-panic to the collapse of the World Trade Organization’s latest round of trade talks, writes Colin Teese, a former deputy secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Trade. The World Trade Organization’s latest round of trade negotiations is currently suspended. If they don’t get started again, and…

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THE ECONOMY: Debt crisis may force ‘severe correction’

Australia is now highly vulnerable to economic shocks, because the economy is structurally imbalanced towards the finance sector and non-tradable services, warns economist Dr Peter Brain. Peter Westmore reports. Unless Australia’s economic direction is reversed, the country faces the possibility of a “severe correction” by 2010, a leading economist has warned. Economist and author Dr…

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THE ECONOMY: The Budget – populist and unsustainable

The Government will lose an ever-increasing amount of revenue under Treasurer Costello’s new superannuation tax concessions, writes Colin Teese, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Trade. Just what exactly is going on?! The Reserve Bank announces an increase of a quarter of one per cent in the official interest rate because of the risk…

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ECONOMICS: Should the Australian dollar fall below US 40 cents . . .

Chronic policy neglect by Australian governments could see our dollar plummet in value, writes Pat Byrne. Sometime later this year, Australia’s net foreign debt is set to pass the A$500 billion mark, equivalent to over 60 per cent of this country’s annual output (gross domestic product). The foreign debt is now growing faster than economic…

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ECONOMICS: UK report calls for halt to supermarket takeovers

A British parliamentary committee is championing small retailers against the big supermarket chains, writes Pat Byrne. A British parliamentary committee has recommended banning further supermarket takeovers, warning that, after wiping out small shop competitors, supermarkets will soon exploit their dominant market power by raising prices. The committee’s recent report warned: “Prices of products will remain…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Australia left holding trade’s $1-billion-dollar baby

The much-touted United States-Australia free-trade agreement has failed to benefit Australian trade as much as promised, according to former director of the Australian Industries Assistance Commission, Martin Feil. The United States-Australia free-trade agreement has now been operating for a year. Australian exports to the US appear to be down and American exports to Australia appear…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: Canberra fails to defend Australia’s trade interests

Coalition ministers continue to talk as if a level playing-field exists in the global marketplace, writes Colin Teese, former deputy secretary of the Department of Trade. Almost everyone accepts that genuine liberalisation of international trade in agricultural products is a lost cause. Even the ideologues accept this; but they are now saying it doesn’t matter.…

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ECONOMICS: Sun still rising – Japan’s invincible might

The largely untold story of Japan’s extraordinary manufacturing success in recent years – told here by Tokyo-based economist and author Eamonn Fingleton – has important lessons for Australia. For those who claim to understand the global economy, here’s a pertinent question: Which East Asian economic powerhouse recently announced the largest current-account surplus in world history?…

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INTERNATIONAL TRADE: WTO negotiations falter on trade liberalisation

It has so far proved impossible to obtain any benefits for Australian agricultural exports under our recently negotiated bilateral trade agreements. Trade Minister Mark Vaile is unjustified in raising Australian farmers’ hopes that a new multilateral trade agreement will be any more beneficial, argues Colin Teese, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Trade.…

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OVERSEAS TRADE: Australia trading at a loss – myth and reality

Australia’s trading account seems to be in permanent deficit, and we are accumulating ever-increasing foreign debt, warns Colin Teese, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Trade. These twin problems are connected with the unique problems of the structure of Australia’s export trade. Unless you don’t care about the implications of trade deficits, the…

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