I have a real problem with any government policy that affects Australian jobs or sells off Australian assets when its origins are rooted in a questionable international bureaucracy. Competition policy falls into this category. There are several reasons why competition policy is not in the best interests of the average Australian voter.
First, the policy was brought in without any informed discussion with the Australian voter. The bureaucrats, who have no sense of national belonging, have been behind a range of international treaties and policies which have seen Australia being sold off to foreigners... chunk by chunk.. asset by asset. The secretive Multilateral Agreement on Investment is another example of the treaty/policy making process in action. The wheels only fell off the MAI when it was exposed thanks to the Internet. All this time our foreign-owned media sat mute, rather like a delinquent child which had been found out trashing someone’s dreams. It was only growing public outrage that forced the bureaucrats to take protective custody behind the Coalition Government’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties while the games continue to be played.
Competition policy has been introduced in countries all over the world. It has become another cog in the corporatisation of Australia. This small country with just 20 million people somehow, misguidedly, believes that by removing all barriers to trade it will be treated with fairness and equity in the world of big business dominated by the US. It’s a big bad world out there and big business on Wall Street has no social conscience.
Second, two major power blocks, the European Union and the US, are advocating a new agreement that would look unfavourably on domestic laws or practices in developing countries or smaller nations like Australia that favour local firms.
Shades of the MAI.
For example, if there are policies that give importing rights to local firms (including government agencies and enterprises), or if there are practices among local firms that give them superior marketing channels, these are likely to be called into question.
We only have to look at the recent crushing of the ant by the elephant approach when we re-visit the World Trade Organisation’s intrusive and downright intimidatory response to our government’s proposed provision of a Au$35 million dollar loan to a local leather marketing business. The WTO threatened to cut Australia down at the knees across a range of export/import areas because of the loan while US business dances to a different tune in this so-called "level playing field".
The rich countries argue that such policies or practices create a barrier to foreign products or firms, which should be allowed to compete on equal terms as locals. Of course the question of tax avoidance by multinationals never enters the picture when the issue of equality is raised.
Australia may argue that local agencies or firms with certain advantages, built up over the years, should be allowed to keep these advantages. The argument clearly being that the giant international firms would, with equal rights, overwhelm the local enterprises which are small and medium-sized in global terms. However, such arguments will not be accepted by the rich countries, which will insist that their giant firms be provided a ‘level playing field’ to compete ‘equally’ with the smaller local firms.
Third, as Competition Policy has been driven by overseas forces it is important to understand that, like the Financial Services Industry Agreement, it will be amended in the future.
You do not have to have a crystal ball to know that any such amendments will not have the best interests of Australian voters in mind.
We have to look no further than the recent signing by Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer of the "Fifth Protocol". This World Trade Organisation treaty is the final nail in the coffin for the "Australian" Commonwealth Bank which was privatised by the Labor Party while "guaranteeing" that "the bank would forever remain in Australian hands".
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