Category Archives: the greens

The Global Agreement Most of Us Know Nothing About

While focus has been on the recent Australia – China Free Trade Agreement, signed at the end of November, an agreement that could eclipse that and all other recent FTA’s Australia has signed continues to be debated and progressed with little knowledge from consumers or Australian businesses.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership could be Australia’s biggest trade deal for decades, but most people have not even heard of it. A survey released at the end of last year by the Australia Institute found 55 per cent of respondents did not know about the TPP, as it is known. Another 19 per cent said ”I’m not sure.”

Despite this there could be a range of significant consequences for AUSBUY members and the wider Australian business community.

For instance it has been reported that negotiations around government procurement in the TPP could restrict the ability of governments, including Australia, to preference local products and services over imported ones, including sustainable, locally grown food. This would limit their ability to shift towards a more sustainable food system on a local scale.

According to the Consumer advocacy group CHOICE, we can also expect higher medicine prices, the potential for Australians to face new criminal penalties and the right for big businesses, from overseas markets, to sue us if they don’t like consumer laws. A leaked draft suggests the US is pushing for criminal penalties, even jail, for illegally downloading popular television shows.

Leaked documents released by WikiLeaks also reveal the TPP include provisions to lengthen patents for some lifesaving drugs for up to an extra 12 years leading to Australian patients paying more for drugs for longer.

It is concerning that agreements that could have such far reaching consequences for Australian consumers and businesses alike have not had the open scrutiny they deserve. The main reason for this is that the negotiations are shrouded in secrecy. Convention dictates that international trade agreements such as this need to be discussed behind closed doors and the negotiating texts must remain confidential, driven by an agreement signed by the Labor government when the talks started.

In response to the claims by a number of groups of the secret nature of the agreements DFAT defended its position by saying that it ‘safeguards our negotiating positions and strategies’ and that there had been a lot of consultation. But many have claimed to have been excluded from real and meaningful dialogue.

Others have said that despite the secrecy Parliament will still need to ratify any agreement reached with our international partners. But others, such as Greens Senator, Peter Whish-Wilson, says they won’t have enough time to give it the proper review it deserves with only 20 days allocated to review the huge and highly complex agreement which goes far beyond a normal trade agreement.

“What is really unusual about the TPP deal is it goes way beyond what we would call the traditional trade in goods and services and breaking open market access. It straddles enormous areas of public interest and public importance, like for example internet usage, intellectual property, food labelling, quarantine standards. You really have to wonder what Australia has left to trade away in these deals, because the nature of these negotiations is you don’t get something unless you give up something.”

AUSBUY is concerned that we are being left in the dark about what we’re giving up during negotiations. We need transparency and a proper, considered process with adequate time to review the agreement to ensure Australia, consumers and business, don’t lose out.

www.ausbuy.com.au

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

Farmer Power Meeting 13 February 2013 – AUSBUY is giving the farmers our support

As you know we like to keep you up to date with our activities related to food security. The invitation below comes about after years of our support for our farmers and manufacturers. It is rare that farmers raise their concerns, but they are now and they need political will and consumer support to help them. Help us help them. In the meantime check out our web site and articles about Food Security.

………………………………….

The Chairman of the northern group of Farmer Power would like to inform you of a crisis meeting to be held on Wednesday, 13 February commencing at 10.30 a.m. in Tongala Victoria.

The meeting is planned to follow on from the highly successful meeting held in Western Victoria attended by around 600 members of the local community consisting of farmers and local business owners with grave concerns for the future of the Australian dairy industry and the businesses and rural communities that depend on it for their survival.

Our key objectives to date are to achieve a resolution to the key factors raised and any further issues that are relevant to our industry, for example:

  • A better and fairer farm gate price for our milk.
  • Australian Dairy Products back on our supermarket shelves and all dairy products to meet Australian standards.
  • Industry support from our Governments.
  • An independent review of the structures representing our industry.

A key focus to the meeting is the impact on the community at large if Australian dairying and agriculture is allowed to decline any further and to communicate the importance of protecting the Australian industries and food supplies into the future for all Australians. They also plan to try and offer advice and support to those who attend who are suffering severe anxiety at a personal level due to the stresses placed on them due to poor returns.

In a few short weeks since Farmer Power’s creation by grass roots farmers, the name is now registered and has a webpage (www.farmerpower.com.au)  that is regularly used to communicate the ideals and progress of the group with interest coming from all states of Australia in the group.

To date they have had extensive interest from the media in the development of this group with at this point the print media of the Weekly Times, Stock and Land and the Shepparton News farming supplement Country News which is distributed throughout the Goulburn Valley involved, and the television network WIN are doing an introductory story this Monday, 4 February 2013 and to cover the meeting.  ABC  7.30 Report will be here for two days with background interviews with farmers the day before our meeting followed by coverage of the meeting as well. ABC Radio will also cover this event and we would expect other local radio stations to follow this as well.

Senator Barnaby Joyce, Lynne Wilkinson from Ausbuy and Dick Smith have accepted the invitation to address the meeting as well as.

AUSBUY would value your attendance to further their cause for the good not only of the  farmers but for all Australians.

If you are going to attend then please let is know by email.

Climate Change? Opportunity to Advance and Support our own

Instead of using the media to vilify the climate change protagonists, it would be useful to step outside the circle and acknowledge that we have come this far as an advanced civilisation because of man’s ingenuity. Therefore it makes sense if we can place less demand on non renewable resources using renewable energy technologies then we will all win. The financial and policy resources used to protect old technologies, which in themselves were right at the time, means that we delaying the opportunity to advance ourselves and others through innovations.

It is not an all or nothing game. Rather we ask how do we advance for the benefit of all?. And as many of the technologies for renewable resources were initially identified here, we should be developing them here, and retaining our intellectual property here. For Australia this will be particularly important as the majority of our non renewable energy is foreign owned, and we have not negotiated to control the price. Our people will pay a high price for resources from our land with few clean alternatives.

Visit ausbuy.com.au for more information and to be informed.

 

An Inconvenient Truth – Whose Truth?

Comment below in response to “An Inconvenient Truth” published in The Australian on 18 Jan 2013 http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/an-inconvenient-truth/story-e6frg6z6-1226556153378

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.

www.ausbuy.com.au

Petition against the Sale of Our Land

Time To Have Your Say

We have a “For Sale” Sign on our wealth creating assets.

Does this meet the national interest test?

Are you concerned about the sale of our land to foreign countries and companies, especially those countries which do not reciprocate the opportunity?

The countries buying our land have long recognised the importance of food security, yet successive decades of our policy decisions have forced our farmers off their land. This is an issue of national importance. We ask you to have your say.

We urge you to send links for this petition and the survey to other concerned Australians. AUSBUY represents the voice of Australian owned companies and growers across our communities – they deserve our support.

AUSBUY is preparing to present the petition along with Kelvin Thomson, Bob Katter and other politicians to parliament next Wednesday, 28th November 2012. We need your help to get as many signatures as possible, so please share this with all your friends and family and ask them all to sign the petition against the sale of our land to foreign interests.

CLICK HERE to sign the AUSBUY petition or visit www.ausbuy.com.au/petition.html

 

Its a funny world…

It’s a funny world! How will our Treasurer achieve his promised surplus after false promises and years of spending borrowed money with no accountability as to how we benefit?  We let foreign countries and companies buy and control our strategic wealth creating assets then wonder why Government tax revenue is down. Join the dots – profits now go off shore that were once reinvested here. Our tax laws favour foreign companies with 10% withholding tax on profits. Who is left to pay off our burgeoning debt? Answer: Australian businesses who have taken the initiative to start and build businesses and not ask for hand outs. In the meantime it is the foreign interests laughing all the way to our bank.

 

www.ausbuy.com.au

Frozen Food From India

Following is a note sent to the local Federal representative. This was sent to us by a Friend of AUSBUY in response to frozen vegetables being sold in WA from India and packaging which “inferred” it was Australian. These are the kinds of products which need to pass scrutiny by Australian authorities before they can be sold here in competition with our own farmers. Such products would not be allowed to be sold in countries such as the USA as their Federal Government maintains tight controls over what enters the country in competition to its farmers

It has come to my attention that a company using the name “Midwest Frozen Foods” has slipped under the radar and is selling frozen foods that although they are made in India has a map of WA and a kangaroo on their packaging. This I believe is misleading advertising and may fool a lot of people into buying what they think comes from WA.

Also I have come across tin products from New Zealand that actually have a kangaroo or a map of Australia on them and although the product labelling declares them to be Product of New Zealand the actual product comes from China.

I think it is time the Government took a stand on misleading labelling and made it law that country of origin be clearly printed on the front of all food packaging.

We need to make sure Australia has a viable food resource within its borders and bring in stricter laws regarding imported food.

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 www.ausbuy.com.au – 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.