Category Archives: Australia

Abbott: Open For Business — And Multinational Lawsuits

By Mike Seccombe September 20, 2013

Labor rejected it outright. Even the Howard government issued America with a rare “no” over the legislation, declaring it contrary to national interests. But now the Abbott Coalition is flirting with a trade agreement that would allow companies, acting increasingly in secret, to sue Australia if they don’t like its regulations.

Australia’s government under Prime Minister John Howard was not notable for its willingness to say “no” to America. Consider, for example, its eager enrolment in the coalition of the willing-to-believe-anything, and in the war of false pretences in Iraq.

And then there was the matter of trade. Coincidentally, a major purpose of John Howard’s visit to Washington in September 2001, where he was when the terrorists struck, was the pursuit of a free-trade deal.

Reversing a long history of resistance to the prospect of a bilateral free-trade agreement with America (Australia had rejected previous overtures as being not in our national interest, and was a leading proponent of multilateral trade reform, through its leadership of the so-called Cairns Group of nations), the Howard government was at first almost pathetically keen to do a deal with the United States.

If a mining company is unhappy with environmental safeguards which inhibit its operations, if a tobacco company does not like laws restricting cigarette sales, ISDS provisions in trade agreements give them the means to challenge government policy and to seek compensation.

In the end, however, Australians’ growing hostility to the trade agreement forced Howard, for once, to say “no” to George Bush.

It wasn’t a blanket refusal of an Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA); a deal was eventually stitched up and began operating in 2005. The “no” was to one of America’s key demands: a provision called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS.

What this arcane phrase refers to is the right of foreign companies to sue national governments of the signatory countries, not in domestic courts, but in opaque international forums, if they think some element of that government’s policy is harming their interests.

If a mining company, for example, is unhappy with environmental safeguards which inhibit its operations, if a pharmaceutical company is unhappy with the prices it gets for its drugs, if a chemical company is upset with the banning of an agricultural pesticide, if a tobacco company does not like laws restricting cigarette sales, ISDS provisions in trade agreements give them the means to challenge government policy and to seek compensation.

And they do this increasingly often, sometimes claiming enormous amounts of money. According to a report in May 2013 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, which monitors these things, a record 58 ISDS cases were begun in 2012. In the same year, decisions were made on 42 cases by an assortment of more or less credible international arbiters. Only 31 of these were publicly disclosed, but of those, 70 per cent went in favour of the corporations, at least in part; and nine resulted in significant awards for damages, including one – to an oil company which sued Ecuador – for a record US$1.77 billion.

 

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 

When Are We Going to Support Our Own? Farmers Under Pressure!

In Australian vernacular, other countries are “having a lend of us” while we continue to have an open door policy to imports. The latest story comes from a Kiwi Fruit farmer in Queensland who has been growing his fruit for 35 years, has a major financial investment in his systems and crop, and is now competing in the markets against fresh product from New Zealand, USA, France and Italy. These are coming in the same growing season as our own.

The Australian farmer is receiving less per box than it costs him to grow and the imported products are selling at $65 a box, five times his production costs here. In addition the imported fruit is only 60g, too small to be acceptable from an Australian farmer. These imports are being sent half way around the world and taking shelf space in our stores instead of our own produce. In addition, despite our labelling laws on fresh produce they are not necessarily showing country of origin on the produce at point of sale. Our gatekeepers are not keeping the gate.

How can this continue to happen and what are the consequences on our long term capacity to feed ourselves if we pretend our people are playing to the same rules as other countries, and our legislators and their advisers do nothing about it? We have been complicit in doing this to our own people.

Australian products exported into the EU have high tariffs of around 18%. It appears there are few barriers to Italy and France exporting here. For countries in trouble, dumping is rife. New Zealand managed to negotiate a deal when the EU was set up so that its products do not have the same level of tariffs as Australian produce and products. The USA subsidizes its farmers and has done so for decades, even before we signed a Free Trade Agreement in 2005 allowing easier access to our market than the USA allowed to theirs with tariffs on Australian imports for up to 20 years.

The kiwi fruit were probably dispatched when our dollar was high, meaning they were even cheaper than imports are now. In the last few weeks the A$ has lost over 10% of its value. If we do not have our own growers and processes sourcing and making here, imports will add to the inflationary pressures on the cost of living for basics food commodities. That will add dramatically to our national debt. Some will say it will benefit our exports. But what will be have to export that we still own?

Government policy for decades has been based on the false assumption that we export most of our food. This was the rationale for the ACCC and FIRB to allow the control of every major food commodity except rice to be controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign owned interests. When the research was last done in 1998 it found we only export more than 50% of our beef, grain and fibre, and consume most of our produce here. Foreign control of our exports means Australia does not get the full benefit of our exports as decisions and profits go off shore. Today we import more fresh produce than we export, from countries that do not meet the same standards and growing conditions of our farmers. Australian consumers are being duped and our Australian owned processors under costs pressures with high interest rates, carbon tax, rising energy and water costs etc.

The level of inertia and inaction by our decisions makers is costing our farmers and businesses dearly. When complaints are put to the ACCC or Productivity Commission, local companies and growers have to “prove” there is a problem and months and years go by as the market rapidly changes. New Zealand sought and gained an Amendment under the WTO to “protect” in 1995 its key industries. Australia has done nothing. Why not?

For many of our farmers and businesses talk has been too little too late as they lose shelf space and distribution in the supply chain. When an economy is out of balance it is our wealth creators, our farmers and our businesses that have no safety net. They are told to be productive and competitive with their hands tied behind their backs.

That is why informed consumers can make a difference. What price so we put on our future?

Interviews can be arranged with Lynne Wilkinson, CEO of AUSBUY on 0294375455 or 0418314923.

Who is Looking After Our Interests?

The SPC story of declining demand highlights the plight of our farmers and manufacturers yet again. We can only hope that a public company can get the attention of the Ministers for Agriculture and Trade, because they have certainly not been listening for decades. The Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) has warned of the consequences of poor policies and loss of control of our assets for nearly 22 years. Reduced demand for farm goods, value added by manufacturers here needs to be addressed because the food industry is the last major manufacturing sector we have which represents a broad cross section of small, medium and large business throughout our regions.

The story is more complicated than at first appears. We have been complicit in the deteriorating situation for over two decades. Australia’s largess without a long term strategic plan has exacerbated our food security. Open door policies signed under the WTO and OECD Agreements, Free Trade Agreements that have rarely been to our advantage; reduced funding over the years for gatekeepers such as Bio Security Australia and AQIS; little control over the standards of imports relative to the standards required of our farmers and manufacturers; poor labelling laws showing country of origin; the high dollar; ACCC’s approval of control of every major food commodity except rice beyond the farm gate by foreign owned companies making our farmers price takers not price makers; loss of major iconic brands which are Australian owned; the growth of private label further eroding profits for local manufacturers;  and the ACCC’s recent  determination that there will be no code of conduct for retailers, all add to our food industry woes.

While SPC cites the high dollar and competition from own brand, private labels in supermarkets, the issue is a little more complicated. SPC’s lower demand for Australian fruit was exacerbated in recent years when they dismantled a factory in Shepparton and set it up in Spain, because Australian exports have an 18% tariff into the EU. This made sense for SPC and the Spanish farmers and factory workers there, but not for Australia. Coca Coal Amatil appreciated the value of the SPC brand. Its prestige both here and overseas built up over generations by the farmers’ cooperative.

What is happening to all the Australian owned manufacturers who do not have the might of Coca Cola Amatil? We should be supporting our owned brands. We can only hope that this will be wake up call. Consumers are increasingly concerned about where our food comes from and where our jobs are generated. That concern should be reflected by our policy makers. We need to listen to our owned while we still can. Sign the AUSBUY petition to ask for a hold on foreign sales until we have a national interest test.

Lynne Wilkinson

CEO – Australian Company Institute Limited

 

 

In Reference to:

SPC production cut to slice 50 percent of fruit growers crop

  • April 24, 2013
  • Sophie Langley

Australian industry groups are offering support to 170 Goulburn Valley fruitgrowers after food processing company SPC Ardmona said it would not be taking their produce from 1 May 2013.

The Company, which is a subsidiary of Coca Cola Amatil (CCA), said the high Australian dollar and competition from cheaper imported products have left it no choice. It forecast a reduction of up to 50 per cent in intake for some fruit categories for the 2014 season.

Australian Food News reported in February 2013 that SPC Ardmona’s troubles had led to a 22 per cent drop in earnings for its parent company CCA.

SPC Ardmona said it is currently half way through what it termed a three-year “business transformation strategy”, which aims to address issues of efficiency and waste reduction throughout the entire business. The Company said it plans to work with key retailers, who it believes do want to support Australian fruit growers.

“We are not competing on a level playing field against the overseas sourced private label products,” said Peter Kelly, Managing Director SPC Ardmona. “We are competing against products from countries that have considerably lower labour and production costs and arguably lower quality standards than we have in Australia,” he said.

“A more than 50 per cent appreciation in the Australian dollar in the past four years has made cheap imported food even cheaper and has also severely impacted on our export markets,” Mr Kelly said.

SPC Ardmona said market share of imported private label canned fruit had grown to 58 per cent, while SPC Ardmona canned fruit share had declined to 33 per cent and the Company’s export market volumes had declined by 90 per cent in the past five years.

According to data from market research organisation Nielsen, published in ‘Retail World Grocery Guide 2012’, SPC Ardmona had 50.2 per cent value share and 40.8 per cent volume share of the shelf-stable fruit category in 2012. The grocery guide showed that in 2012, private label products had 29.1 per cent value share in the category, and 39.8 per cent volume share.

The Company said it would be seeking temporary tariff protection relief from the Australian Government to assist the fruit processing industry during the period of the strong Australian dollar, and more effectively market its brands to consumers with “stronger Australian grown and Australian made messages”.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) AM radio program, John Wilson, spokesperson for industry body Fruit Growers’ Victoria, agreed that the high Australian dollar was a big challenge for the sector.

“A combination of the collapse of global markets in North America and Europe and an oversupply of canned fruit; at the same time our Australian dollar purchasing power increased,” Mr Wilson told the ABC program. “And unfortunately the cannery can’t meet that competition on a short-term turnaround,” he said.

Mr Wilson said the fruit growing sector needed a “restructure program, a restructure package that has a transition and an exit component in it for the health of fruit growing right across the district”.

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 http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/theres-more-to-the-cost-of-living-race-than-flinging-money/desc/

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

Clash of Concerns over Foreign Ownership of Australian Agriculture

AUSBUY‘s comment on the story on ABC’s The World Today – http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3701228.htm

Good to see discussion about this issue. AUSBUY raised the issue of Food Security over four years ago, now it is fashionable to talk about it. AUSBUY raised a petition asking for a national interest test early in 2012 based on the need for a national interest test. New Zealand stopped the sale of 8 dairy farms to the Chinese because it did not meet the national interest test. We have no mechanisms.

Ownership and investment are important issues. Put simply only Australian majority ownership means the decisions, profits, jobs, skills and reinvestment stay here. As a country we do not have a strategic long term plan about any industry let alone the industry which helped build our wealth, based on our clean green growing environment. Over the past few decades we have allowed control beyond the farm gate of all major food commodities except rice, as overseen by the ACCC.  We have deregulated industries and made our farmer price takers not price makers. Hence on farm income has been in decline for decades matched by rising debt. Any wonder farmers are selling their land. These skills and knowledge of the land are being lost.  And there are no mechanisms in place to give priority to our owned.

All our trading partners fund their growers (average $41k compared to $4k for Australian farmers). Policies were based on the false assumption that we export most of our food, whereas we only export more than 50% of our beef, wheat and fibre. Based on this false assumption we have signed FTAs giving ready access to our markets. We have not counted the decline since 1998 (simply do not want to recognise the unintended consequences of decisions).The high AUD$ is hurting our growers and manufacturers ever  more.

Foreign owned manufacturers close factories here, set up off shore and sell back to us.  Our tax laws favour foreign interests (10% withholding tax) and FIRB thresholds mask what is really happening. Canadian Super Funds are buying our assets yet there are no mechanisms for Australians to invest in our own country.

Bill Heffernan is one of the few politicians prepared to look at this. AUSBUY has been focusing on the importance of ownership since 1991. A petition about foreign ownership was presented to Parliament in December 2012 with 55,000 signatures.  Who will pay off our rising debt? It will not be the foreign countries and companies buying our wealth creating assets.

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