Category Archives: ausbuy guide

Is Free Trade Fair?

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
And so we come to you, our (goods), our heart above our head
Though we see the danger there
If there’s a chance for us, then we don’t care. (Mercer and Bloom)

It is welcome news to see some discussion from Westpac’s Senior Banker Rob Whitfield about the FTA with China. (No need to give away farm in FTA – the Australian 15/9/14). Years spent sitting on the side lines waiting to play might not seem so bad if we look at what has happened when we played the FTA game in recent years. In our rush to sign FTAs we have not considered whether they are fair to Australian interests. Trade is important, but should be win/win.

Over the past four decades our trading partner options have changed from a UK European focus. We were effectively locked out of the old trading relationships with the formation of the EU. The USA is a major trading partner with investment in many of our major companies operating here but did not necessarily give reciprocal rights to our farmers when we signed a FTA with them in 2005.

In recent years our exporters have had to deal with a high AUD$. Our mineral commodity exports hid the decline in exports in our food and manufacturing sectors to the national bottom line. Manufacturing has struggled to stay viable or move off shore, resulting in loss of jobs and critical mass in the supply chain in key industries. When companies close, the flow on effect is felt by those businesses here that supply goods and services. We lose critical mass.

Australia has had a wake-up call to better manage our income and debt, but we have not counted the costs of past Agreements. We can always live in hope.

However, hope will not pay our bills if we do not own the exports or set an equitable price for suppliers. And when our dollar goes down we will be dependent on rising import costs that impact inflation. Viable, locally owned and sourced businesses would be a buffer against our dependence on imports.

The idea that everyone gains from Free Trade Agreements is an oft cited motherhood statement, but not necessarily true if our history is any indication. For example, while not the primary cause for withdrawal by the motor vehicle industry here, its decline was exacerbated by FTA in 2005 with Thailand which allowed access for cars from South Korea and Japan via the back door into our market. In that case, we did not get a bilateral agreement so our exports to Thailand had the burden of high tariffs. Score – they win we lose. Instead we blame the workers’ wages when factories close.

History is not kind to our negotiators. This situation is not helped by a naive and commercially, inexperienced public service, who are our negotiators and political advisers.

   To gain from FTAs we have to obtain access to sales that our businesses and growers would not get locally or from other customers, and in return give access for imports of similar dollar values, but not in direct competition with our own.

     Since some of our domestic companies will lose as a result of import competition, our negotiators need to continually model the possible gains and losses. The least they could do would be to consult locally owned businesses not just the big end of town.

The rest of the world wants to “Feed Asia” and they are doing their own deals. Their own producers and processors will get priority. Agricultural products unfortunately are politically sensitive in most countries who “protect their farmers”, but not here.

The lure to allow these Agreements with Asia is concealing the real picture here. Current negotiation’s main target is agricultural products. However as we have highlighted over many years the majority of our food export commodities are controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign interests.

Fresh food may present other opportunities, but if we are importing fresh produce to satisfy FTAs then where are the efficiencies in transport costs and quality controls for our producers? Where is the assurance that our consumers and processors have access to quality, safe and affordable food here? Will AQIS and Biosecurity Australia be resourced to ensure diseases do not enter, and will poor growing conditions put our people at risk? Will our labelling laws require and enforce Country of Origin so consumers are free to choose?

    Earlier this year the Government is promising 1745 jobs will be created in the next year here, and the boost will continue for at least 15 years, with 950 new jobs expected in 2030. (Source DFAT). However, there is no evidence in government papers where these jobs will be created and what levels of exports are from Australian owned operators. Nor have we identified how many jobs will be lost.

A quick review of DFAT shows import duty into Australia shows 0% to 10% on many of the goods we are proposing to open our doors to off shore. Whereas in the case of South Korea our exports in the same products have export tariffs between 10% and over 500% plus and will be gradually removed over 15 years. Does this sound like a fair deal? Ask our rice growers who have been excluded.

Some owned growers and manufacturers will gain opportunities in these Agreements. But those products excluded are not happy.  Without due consideration of the real benefits to Australia we will continue to “paint ourselves into a corner” exposing our economy. It has been all too easy to call “takeover of our wealth creating assets” investment, locking Australia out of the decisions, real profits and putting our jobs, skills and reinvestment at risk.

And when we consider that many of our agriculture exports here are controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign interests, and our farmers’ income is declining as their on farm debt rises, then the real value to Australia is reduced further. It does not augur well for deals with China.  Who is looking after our interests?

The Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) Lynne Wilkinson CEO

What You Can Do as a Concerned Australian!

We urge concerned Australians to talk to those proposing to represent us in the next Government. Ask them:

  1. what priority they give Australia’s long term interest when we have an open door policy to imports which do not meet our standards;
  2.  why do we have a “for sale” sign on our wealth creating assets so foreign countries and companies can buy our land and our businesses;
  3. why our government fund foreign purchases – over $600m to China to lease the Ord Stage Two;
  4. why they allow foreign interests to pay less company tax from the profits they declare (10% withholding tax), after consultancy fees and interest repayment are sent off shore;
  5. why they do not apply the laws we have in place to ensure products do not come here or are removed from sale that do not meet our standards;
  6. why government procurement tends to favour foreign owned business operating here who then do not necessarily source from our businesses and often replace inferior quality;
  7. why products are dumped here and nothing is done;
  8. when will they apply labelling laws which show were products are grown and sourced; where they are made and who really owned the;
  9. why they have not called for an amendment under the WTO to give protection to our key industries and our knowledge base;
  10. why they do not acknowledge the implications of decades of policies based on a false principle that everyone is playing by the same rules. Only Australia does this to our own. All the countries we trade with ignore our intellectual property, do not allow domination of key sectors in the supply chain to dictate prices and profits to their suppliers and import goods to replace their own. Australia cannot take advantage of the Asian century if we do not own our land and our manufacturing.
  11. Sign the AUSBUY petition

We are losing over 200 years knowledge of our land and our capacity for innovation as countries and global companies circle to buy our wealth creating assets. That is why AUSBUY goes to the people. Every $ you spend on Australian owned and made goods and services has a multiplier effect within our economy. $50 a week for every household becomes $50B multiplied in our economy. Sign 

Labelling Laws – Still waiting for action while consumers confused and local manufacturers and growers are undermined

When the Senate Enquiry into “Truth in Labelling” was undertaken in October 2009 there was some hope that Australians would finally see where their products come from even though the label says “Made in Australia”, even though at the time most industry groups rejected the concept. While the Senate has rejected “Made in Australia” the key issue then and now in AUSBUY’s submission was the need for Country of Origin. This has now been recognised. Now the work really begins. Let’s hope our industries and our farmers can hold on long enough.

Labels are complicated. They are also costly to replace for manufacturers already under cost pressure. While discussions have been consumer focused, the suppliers also need to be considered, especially those locally owned businesses whose ethic is to source from Australian farmers and suppliers whenever possible. Of course Australia does not produce every ingredient, but then not all ingredients are cited on a tin of pears or more complicated sauces etc.  “Made in Australia” infers products are sourced here. Local and imported confuse the issue further.

Change cannot be avoided as the source of our foods are increasingly complicated by our Free Trade Agreements, high dollar and virtual open door policy to imports. To their credit Coles and Woolworths manage “Country of origin” reasonably well on their private label brands. They may be replacing locally made and grown foods because our businesses cannot compete on price against cheap imports, but at least consumers have a choice to avoid imported foods, even if they are made here because the label tells them the source.

Some consumers in sheer frustration use bar codes when they shop. The problem is the 93 barcode for Australia means the company has a registered office here and may be foreign owned and imported.

In the meantime AUSBUY has attended many meetings and discussions where the various sides had their say (or did not). Many meetings were chaired with a pre-determined outcome, so discussion appeared to be superfluous. Or the issues were so complex that Senators where clearly bamboozled having had no industry experience of the complexities. No need for this as the experts were in the room, time was limited and an outcome expected.

As AUSBUY has highlighted in the past, if the intent is misplaced then the action is misplaced, and without a clear objective it is easy to sustain inertia when confusion reigns. Few see the bigger picture or acknowledge the consequences. You guessed it, after more than four years the announcement this week on “made in Australia” is no action as the Senate rejected. The changes do not go far enough. We can only hope it does not take another four years to get an outcome that benefits Australia.

The food sector is the largest manufacturing sector we have left where there is a spread of businesses across our communities and regions sourcing from local farmers. Many small businesses drive the innovation in the food sector. These are the businesses that “value-add’ our commodities – but we have stopped talking about “value adding” and control of the supply chain and key industries.

In the past four years we have seen multinationals take over more local brands, farms bought because on farm income has been in decline for decades, commodity industries such as dairy, fruit and vegetable growers under threat, or factories close here and move off shore to sell back to us. No one has counted the cost to our manufacturers and growers as imported foods replace local produce and still carry the “Made in Australia” label as long as it meets the 51% test of substantial transformation (including packaging costs). For a country that prides itself on our agriculture we have no major global brands since Fosters was sold.

The issue is from “where”. We have signed Free Trade Agreements with countries that do not reciprocate opportunities as our exports incur tariffs (USA, EU), open our doors to countries that do not meet our standards, or imports that bring the threat of disease when we have under-resourced our gatekeepers AQIS and Bio-Security Australia. Diseases are being introduced to our once clean, green growing environment via the back door and the front door.

Ask our orange growers. We cannot take foods across state borders but import foods that do not meet our standards, yet oranges from overseas compete in the same growing season at the same price as our local produce. These activities are hidden in processed foods. At least we have “Country of Origin” on fresh produce, championed by AUSBUY over a decade ago. But again this is not policed at local and state levels, except where big supermarkets err.

Then there is the seasonality of food. If manufacturers want to sustain their production line the excuse is to import out of season. Whatever we can do to support our local manufacturers and growers and give priority to their sustainability the better. Labelling laws are important, but only part of the problems facing our essential industries. AUSBUY’s focus is on informed consumers and working with manufacturers and growers,  but then we only represent Australian owned businesses so our message is not compromised.

Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) is a not for profit organisation representing Australian owned businesses exclusively since 1991. Interviews can be arranged.  Lynne Wilkinson 02 9437 5455 0418 3149 23

Intent: How to Get What You Wish For

“While intent is the seed of manifestation, action is the water that nourishes the seed. Your actions must reflect your goals in order to achieve true success. INTENT reveals desire; ACTION reveals commitment.”  Steve Maraboli

In our topsy-turvy world it is useful to be reminded how we evaluate the information overload which forms our opinions, and how we as individuals and groups respond to these.

Have you ever experienced the “ah ha!” factor? In recent months there have been several occasions where I have seen both the good and bad in our changing world, and, while not necessarily directly related to business and trade, these helped put into context what ACIL (AUSBUY) does and why we do it and to observe the intent of others. So I invite you to consider what the word “intent” means to you, to determine the “intent” of your own decisions, and observe those given responsibility to make them on our behalf. We appreciate that change happens. We can adapt to it, be part of it and even lead it. However the “intent” of those driving the change needs to be better understood.

Firstly, I was in a meeting where the leaders espoused a particular outcome before a vote that would mean a change in the organisation’s voting rights, and give a greater voice to its members. Robust discussion ensued from representatives both for and against change before a wide audience and those entitled to vote. Representatives of the non- voters, were seated separately. While the leaders espoused the same intent to change the rules to allow a plebiscite, the approach taken in the meeting to achieve the result did not reference their shared intent – a stronger, engaged organisation. In discussions both sides showed aggression. The only way was their way. Points of law and a limited time frame distracted and even confused the worthy adjudicator and the people asked to vote.

“The most important distinction between aggression and assertion is the intention. During assertion, we move ourselves toward another; during aggression, we move ourselves against another.” Georgia Lanoil

The end result was when voting took place – you guessed it – no change. Better the devil you know rather than something new. What got in the way of achieving the shared values and outcome? The intent was honourable, but the actions by some parties on both sides much less so. There was little time for “reason” and questions about the consequences of the proposed changes, although much had been written and distributed to the voters. There was no time given to make people accountable for their positions or vested interests. Innuendo is not a good basis for decisions. And this was a meeting of highly educated people. It would appear wisdom cannot be assumed or translated in a group where vested interests have louder voices.

“A fraudulent intent, however carefully concealed at the outset, will generally, in the end, betray itself”. Titus Livius

The second “ah ha!” was when AUSBUY took a petition to Canberra for the last sitting week of Parliament in late 2012. Eight politicians from both Houses and all Parties supported the petition asking for a moratorium on the sale of our wealth creating assets and our land until we have a national interest test. In a year where confrontation and discord seemed to be the order of the day, this was an issue which united these political representatives to stand beside us. What has happened in the subsequent period is that the issue of the “national interest” is talked about without discussion or reference, while back room deals are done to sell off our wealth creating assets for the short term fix. Organisations representing Australian owned interests are rarely invited to the table. However it says a lot about the politicians who supported AUSBUY and does give some hope that their “intent” is in our interests.

The third “ah ha!” occasion was orchestrated by a recent AUSBUY Corporate Member, Aussie Farmers Direct, at the opening of their new distribution facility in Melbourne. The “intent” of the function reflected the principles of the business. State and Federal representatives attended, indigenous Australians performed welcome to country, and local school children sang the national anthem. Suppliers and franchisees were integral to the team effort. While these activities might be “must haves” for local businesses, the “intent” to engage with and empower people is evident in the way in which the business was established, and is lead and structured. This is a business with a long term plan based on engagement, shared values, creating an environment for people to operate at their best and giving back.

AUSBUY recently launched a Builders and Makers Campaign where the key issues that they share no matter what the industry are: long term plan; short term adaptation to market conditions; innovation; product or service integrity, value their people and manage them accordingly, perseverance and resilience; reinvestment here. Their “intent” gives meaning to what they do and is reflected in the integrity and quality of goods and services that they produce.

While we see change all around us and much of it is taken out of our control, we can assert our intentions and lead the change rather than be caught in the maelstrom. It is about empowerment and choice. Our future should be in our hands.

“We call an intention good which is right in itself, but the action is good, not because it contains within it some good, but because it issues from a good intention.” Peter Abelard

Cost of Living Rises – Why

In response to the article on The Punch

These are the personal unintended consequences of globalism and consolidation of assets into fewer hands, especially those off shore. The response from our government is to put a “For Sale” sign on our wealth creating assets so that the decisions are made off shore, the profits leave here aided by our generous tax concessions to foreign companies (and countries), the ACCC finds it hard to say no to any takeover and the FIRB does not count the cost of strategic assets sold to countries.

Prices will rise because they can, our governments have failed to plan, which means businesses close and the hand out queue becomes bigger, although business owners rarely ask for hand outs even if they close their doors. They are the forgotten people. More then ever we need to support our owned businesses. And decisions makers need to check where their priorities really are. Here or elsewhere. Hope will return when our leaders are working for us not the others.

AUSBUY believes that only Australian ownership means the profits, skills, jobs, reinvestment and decisions stay here.  Support Australian Owned, buy the new AUSBUY Guide which is now available for purchase over 2000 supermarkets nationwide. Click here to find your nearest stockist. The AUSBUY Guide remains the most comprehensive list of Australian owned businesses to help you spend wisely.

AUSBUY Buying Guide V37

The Wisdom of Fairy Tales

This is the House that Jack Built. This is a story of unintended consequences. The cat ate the rat the rat ate the malt that was used to make the bricks of the house. In this story it is the farmer whose actions save the house, so Jack gets married and lives happily ever after”.

Even nursery rhymes identify farmers as wise. What relevance does this have to Australia? We are living the unintended consequences because control has been taken away. We get so caught up in complicated thinking, listening to others’ answers about what is right for us. The answers should be obvious – acting on them less so.

The issue is what is the “intent” of those who answer our questions?

“A fraudulent intent, however carefully concealed at the outset, will generally, in the end, betray itself”. Titus Livius 

An Inconvenient Truth – Whose Truth?

Comment below in response to “An Inconvenient Truth” published in The Australian on 18 Jan 2013

Not sure who is inconvenienced by the truth about GM foods. The four global companies who control GM foods are the ones generating the positive GM science results mostly out of Africa. They also benefit most from the sale of GM seeds to farmers who cannot grow non GM food on their land once GM is used. Or when they take our non GM farmers to court for contaminating GM foods in silos as is a case before the High Court of Australia at present. Farmers in the USA regret using GM because it did not deliver the higher yields promised. The fact that our once independent CSIRO now relies on corporate funding means that even our scientists are compromised. The opportunity to “feed the world” would be more benefit to Australia if the sector was better managed by giving some control back to our farmers who have the knowledge and skills. Instead we have given majority control of all food commodities except rice (for now) beyond the farm gate to foreign interests, making our farmers price takers not price makers. Add to that, Government purchase of water licenses during the drought and selling them as transferable tradable commodities off shore puts less assets in our farmers hands. In the meantime we are selling our land to countries that have failed to manage their own land sustainably. GM will only add insult to injury for what was once our competitive advantage, our clean green growing environment.

It’s time to have your say Australia …

For those of you concerned about the sale of our wealth creating assets you will be pleased to know Dick Smith has his magazine being distributed over the next few days through Murdoch owned press. Keep an eye out for it. While Dick Smith Foods are one our AUSBUY members, for 21 years AUSBUY has represented hundreds of Australian owned businesses with the support of concerned Australians. They represent thousand of jobs and skills reinvested here. They are our Builders and Makers. 

We urge you to sign the AUSBUY petition (featured in DSF magazine). The most appropriate way to sign the petition is on line – so make sure you tell your friends and help us spread the word to support our owned while we still can. It is very difficult to present the government with bits of paper.

Go to – click on the Time to Wake Up Banner where you will see the discussion and background to the petition and our surveys. TELL YOUR FRIENDS via email or on facebook and twitter. Get on talk back radio. Write to your local member. Browse the Be Informed and media sections on our site as background information. Find and Buy the AUSBUY Guide in stores. If they say they do not have it ask the grocery manager to order more.

AUSBUY initiated this discussion earlier this year. It has taken the Cubbie Station issue to raise awareness and concern.

We thank DSF for helping us spread the word. We also thank the many Friends of AUSBUY and Corporate members who continue to create jobs, nurture our skills and reinvest here. If you would like to become an AUSBUY friend, click here to join now and help us support our own.

If we do not look after our home no one else will.


It does not take much to steal our identity in Australia. In recent years foreign owned companies have made an art of being more Aussie than we are using our flag, stealing our history (since 1893 etc) to infer they are still Australian. They have even quoted Dick Smith, a proud AUSBUY member and iconic Australian business man. It is not rocket science to know that supporting Australian products and farmers is good, but is it a bit rich when issues such as securing our future, or attending to the national interest when consumers buy are quoted by organisations that represent foreign owned companies operating here.

As a little Aussie battler representing Australian owned businesses exclusively since 1991 AUSBUY is independent of government hand outs and focuses on taking the initiative on issues which have long term implications for our members. These are the Australian owned businesses who are competing with imports and foreign owned companies, who are told they must be competitive and productive, while they pay more tax than foreign companies, pay the highest interest rates in the developed world and are not given priority in government spending. We are not saying no to foreign investment, but please do not pretend you are here for our good only.

Any wonder AUSBUY decided to go to the people to make their decisions when they buy. We respect our people enough to know that they will know the difference. AUSBUY urges us to consider what $50B means to us. If every Australian shopper spent $50 a week on Australian owned goods instead of imports or foreign owned goods and services is would have a multiplier effect within our economy. This is more than the government earns from 3.3 million workers on a basic wage. Remember, “Only Australian ownership means the decisions profits jobs skills and reinvestment stay here”. This is our investment in our future of our own jobs and our children.

The Australian Companies Institute Limited trading as AUSBUY A not for profit organisation 1300 882 361 – interview can be arranged.

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