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Potatoes - imported

By Gillian Brown - posted Wednesday, 15 August 2001

"POTATOES - IMPORTED" I stood and stared. Why, I wondered, is an Australian supermarket selling imported potatoes? Aren't the Aussie farmers able to produce potatoes for the domestic market? I watched as a shopper picked a bag of clean scrubbed spuds and put them in her shopping cart. So this is globalisation? The consumer gets cheaper imported potatoes, but the Aussie farmer goes out of business? On the level playing field of the Global Village the protective barriers are down and the lowest offer wins. Bad luck for the Aussie farmer with high overheads and good wages. I guess he'll just have to plough up his spuds and concede that the third word campesino can do it cheaper. Well, at least the poor peasant farmer gets a bit of an income…

Wait a minute, I'm dreaming… that's not how it is, except in the erudite papers of the World Bank … I've seen them, on the streets of South American cities, big brown eyes pleading, pulling at my heart, "Give me, just a little…". Children, dirty, scruffy, barefoot, dodging city traffic to beg centavos from a wealthy-looking gringa. "Where have you come from, chico?" Oh, from the campo, campesinos cast off their land by the big guys, transnational agribusiness. Now they fight for survival in the poverty belt of ramshackle hovels encircling the big cities. They roam the streets, gazing at luxury goods in the windows of expensive stores, and tug on the coats of foreigners in hope of a little pity and a few cents to buy a potato.

The name of the game: Globalism, the well-advanced economic strategy of the New World Order. Globalisation, we are told in soothing, reassuring tones, is inevitable, irreversible and highly beneficial. We hear President Bush in a news sound bite saying it's all about trade, and we're in favour of that. Of course. Everyone is in favour of trade. But it's not just about trade. Globalism is the promotion of so called "free trade". The aim is to open up national economies to multinational companies so they can maximise their profits. The secret agenda of globalism is actually corporate predation, cloaked in a guise of benevolence, that enables the powerful to profit at the cost of the poor.


Australia, like New Zealand, has already adopted economic reforms which facilitate the transfer of national assets into global hands through policies of deregulation, privatisation, and the granting of tax concessions and benefits to transnationals which are denied to nationals. Deregulation, removing protective government controls, results in the destruction or take over of small businesses and farms by transnational corporations through unequal competition. It effectively opens the door to the chicken coop and invites the fox in. Privatisation permits the government to offer national assets to global buyers. It sells off the farm to foreigners. So the farm is sold, the fox got the chooks, and we're told it's all for the best. Really?

It was May 1, and a twelve year old boy was one of a group of anti-globalisation demonstrators outside Adelaide's Stock Exchange. He took the day off school to protest because he believes that the rich are getting richer at the cost of the poor. He told me that the three richest men in the world own more wealth than 600 million people in the 48 poorest nations. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are transnational corporations.

With every new international globalist summit, an increasing number of opponents are joining the "Mobilisation Against Globalisation". Within the fortress of the conference halls, gold-plated pens sign off with a flourish on secret agreements that will change the shape of the world. Yet while the sombre-suited elite shape international treaties in the luxury of air conditioned conference halls, the streets outside are part carnival, part carnage, where circus costumes, flowers and balloons mingle with black balaclavas and gas masks. Peaceful marches, street theatre and cheer-leading civil disobedience activists are upstaged by rock-throwing, window-smashing radical anarchists locked in pitched battle with grim-faced, baton-wielding riot police. The songs of solidarity of gentle peaceniks are drowned by the wail of sirens as blood flows on the streets amid clouds of rancid tear gas. Not since the anti-war movement of the sixties and seventies, has any cause aroused such fervent mass protest.

A modem dials, pages of information and images flash across a computer screen. Ironically, using the same means of mass communication, rapid transportation and global money markets that empower their opponents, grassroots organisers are, for the first time in history, able to coordinate the international movement of a large and well-informed guerrilla network of protesters. Uniting an eclectic variety of concerns, from anti-Nike activists to objectors to genetically modified foods, the "Mobilisation Against Globalisation" represents a mix of naïve altruism, anger at exploitation, frustration at being encaged from cradle to grave in "the system", and the desperation that comes from getting trapped on a corporate treadmill.

It's not easy to stir the average Aussie out of the complacency of the "she'll be right, mate" attitude, and take to the streets with placards of protest, but globalism has hit where it hurts. Despite empty promises of prosperity, countless small businesses have collapsed, farms are bankrupt, people can't find work. 14.2% of Australian children live below the poverty level, homelessness is rising. 80% of the economy and 90% of big business is now owned and controlled by foreigners. The people of Australia are feeling ripped off, robbed of the benefits of their own resources, their country raped by wealthy foreign executives in distant offices.

New Zealand, a test case recognised by globalist advocates to be highly successful, is described more often as "a colossal failure". Most New Zealanders, especially Pacific Islanders and Maoris, are now a great deal worse off than before the implementation of globalist policies. Half the farms in the country are bankrupt; a third of all children and a fifth of all households are living in poverty; New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rate in the developed world, and there is a significant increase in violent crime.


Evidently the success of the globalist experiment is relative to your perspective. To the CEO of a multinational corporation enjoying a feeding frenzy in the chook pen, globalist reforms are certainly a great success. But to the former small business owner now lining up for a part-time job with the same giant corporation that forced him out of business, globalisation doesn't look so great when he walks away empty handed to pick up a little parcel at the charitable food bank.

Take a stroll down the aisles of the local supermarket. Potatoes - Imported. Oranges - Imported. Meat - Imported. So, I guess the real winners are the transnationals, producing potatoes at minimal cost - cheap land, no concern for expensive and bothersome things like decent wages, safe conditions and environmental protection. Importing to wealthy Australia where protective restraints on corporate predation have been removed by gullible governments. And the Aussie farmer? Oh, I saw him down at the Opp Shop trying to sell a pair of gum boots for a few cents to buy a potato.

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About the Author

Gillian Brown is director of Keziah Video, currently producing a video documentary on globalisation: Globalism: The Secret Agenda.

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