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.

Ban GM Wheat Trials in Australia

GM crops threaten Australia’s independence to determine what will grow and where. A few global companies will control the supply chain of food supply. On a Landline programme last year they identified that in the USA farmers regret having used GM because it did not deliver consistent yields and their land is now contaminated. The case currently before the Australian High Court instituted by Safe Food Australia highlights that non GM farmers will pay GM farmers for contaminating their crops if they leave non GM residual grain in a silo. This is related to Canola. Surely Australian scientists can produce wheat varieties as they have in the past where global companies do not control the supply chain and the intellectual property. The growth of GM foods is largely in Africa because the global companies have ready access. The UK and EU do not want GM.

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

 

 

Simplot and McCain both announce cut backs, threat of closures

In response to an article below from the Australian Food News Website on 5 June 2013.

Stop whinging – we have done this to ourselves!!! Simplot (USA) has been a relatively benign foreign investor since it bought many of the brands and factories formerly owned by the Australia Public Company in the mid 1990s (Edgells). Likewise we thought McCains (Canada) was here to stay. Will they follow the Heinz example to set up in New Zealand and sell back to us? Decisions are now made overseas about the closure of factories.

We have been complicit in the decline of our food manufacturing in Australia. Over the past three decades we have allowed majority control beyond the farm gate of every major food commodity except rice. The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has overseen the loss of control to overseas interests and retailers in the name of competitiveness, while our farmers and our local manufacturers are expected to play to a different set of rules to their competitors.

While we claim food manufacturing is the largest manufacturing sector we have remaining, Australia has no major food companies. Decisions about our manufacturing are made in overseas board rooms, not here.

Other countries look after their own. New Zealand has the largest dairy company in the world, Fonterra. New Zealand obtained an amendment under the WTO rules to stop imports which impact their strategic industries. New Zealand stopped the sale of eight dairy farms to the Chinese last year because it did not meet the natioanl interest test. Its government cannot divest assets which are their for the long term interest of its citizens. Australians have no rights. Countries such as the USA strictly control manufactured goods through labelling law compliance. They decide what products will be sold in the USA.

Despite the warning signs, Australian decision makers turned a blind eye. Foreign investment at any cost has been the call cry! And our people are bearing the consequences! In recent years we have condoned the importation of packaged foods and fresh produce which does not meet our standards. Dumping is rife! Our labelling laws are inadequate. We have under resourced our gate keepers AQIS, Bio Security Australia and Australian Standards.

In recent years, aided by our high A$, our open door policy to imports, and our largess and benevolence to help developing countries, we have imported foods in direct competition with own farmers and their skills.

Our borders are not secure. Imports are coming from countries with labels which do not meet our standards, are replacing local producers on the shelf.

The growth of private label among the retailers has also put addition burden on our manufacturers to compete on price with overseas manufacturers if they want to keep their factories operational.

In addition, in recent years we have been net importers of food. While retailers might espouse their support for fresh produce on the shelves, imported foods are being substituted for local produce in many manufactured goods. Made in Australia does not mean it is owned here or sourced here with the current rules of 51% substantial transformation.

The problem in Australia is further exacerbated by the closures in our regional areas where produce is “value added”, creating skilled manufacturing jobs while our farming skills are retained.

The Australian owned businesses who are competing in this environment deserve our support. AUSBUY was prescient in warning of the consequences of loss of control of our wealth creating assets when it formed during the recession we had to have in 1991.

Australia’s challenge in the coming years is to rebuild our nation, get our people working productively for Australia again, and reinvesting in our future. If we cannot find answers to the questions we are asking then ask other questions. The seeds of the future are in those Australian owned companies and our farmers, many of whom have the answers. Are we listening?

 AUSBUY –Australian Companies Institute Limited Since 1991

Only Ownership Means the Decisions, Profits, Jobs, Skills and Reinvestment stay here

Interviews can be arranged – 02 94375455 or 0418314923

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Simplot and McCain both announce cut backs, threat of closures

  • June 5, 2013
  • Sophie Langley

Two prominent Australian food manufacturers have announced they are feeling the pressure from a “very competitive food industry environment” and may forced to make closures and reduce grower contracts.

Simplot Australia Pty Ltd has announced that two of its vegetable processing plants are at risk of closure, while McCain Foods Australia has confirmed that four potato growers in Ballarat have been notified they will not be offered contracts for the upcoming harvest period in late October – November 2013.

Simplot plants at risk of closure

Simplot Australia today advised employees at its plants in Bathurst (New South Wales) and Devonport (Tasmania) are under threat of closure. The Company said this was due to “unsatisfactory financial returns arising from a very competitive food industry environment and unsustainably high costs associated with manufacturing in Australia”.

The Company said the plants, which have both in the Simplot business for many years, are currently not competitive in the face of much lower cost imported product alternatives. According to Simplot, the high Australian dollar, while not causing the underlying lack of competitiveness, exacerbates the issues facing the plants.

“The frozen and canned vegetable categories have been chronic profit under-performers for years, regardless of the value of the Australian dollar,” said Terry O’Brien, Simplot Australia Managing Director. He said that the Company’s immediate imperative was to seek “sustainable improvement opportunites” with key stakeholders to help return the plants’ financial performance to the required level.

Simplot said meetings are being scheduled with local, State and Federal government representatives, employees, unions, suppliers and growers to discuss profit improvement opportunities.

“If insufficient opportunities are identified, we will be forced to close our Bathurst plant after the next corn season. Our Devonport plant will be required to produce a five year improvement plan with satisfactory outcomes or face the prospect of a longer term (3 to 5 year) closure,” Mr O’Brien said.

Australian vegetable and potato growers’ representative body AusVeg has said it is “deeply troubled” by Simplot’s announcement, and has called for the Australian Government to re-evaluate the food processing sector.

Simplot Australia said its parent company, the US-based JR Simplot Company, “remains steadfastly committed to the Australian food manufacturing industry” and is seeking ways for its Australian operations to improve returns in the face of “significant structural changes in the dynamics of the Australian market”.

The announcement follows an intensive six-month review of Simplot’s supply chain operations in the vegetable category.

McCain cuts growers

Meanwhile, McCain Foods has announced that four potato growers in Ballarat will not be offered contracts for the upcoming harvest period in late October – November 2013 because of surplus potatoes from 2012 and lower customer demand for the local product.

“The company has a long-standing history with many growers in Ballarat, Tasmania and South Australia, and we are committed to maintaining those relationships where we can,” said Mr Farnell. “It’s important we give as much notice as we can for this year so growers can look for other opportunities. We believe six months before planting is sufficient notice in the circumstances,” he said.

McCain Foods said it has been in discussions with growers across Australia for the past three months over the tonnage available and individual requirements.

“Australian potato prices were still very high compared to cheaper processed imports, and it’s important for grower committees across Australia to take leadership roles in tackling reforms to reduce inefficiencies in the system, which is vital in making our industry sustainable and competitive,” said Gerry Farnell, McCain Foods Integrated Supply Chain Director for APMEA.

McCain Foods said it had discussed the threat of imports with grower representatives and Victorian and Tasmanian State Government officials over the last 18 months through a working party to tackle reforms. McCain Foods said it would continue to consult with grower communities in each State on improving industry efficiencies and the development of new technologies to make the industry sustainable.

“Only a decade ago, Australia’s potato growers were competitive and import-resistant, and this should be the number one priority for growers,” Mr Farnell said.

Australia’s Challenge….

Australia’s challenge in the coming years is to rebuild our nation, get our people working productively for Australia again, and reinvesting in our future. If we cannot find answers to the questions we are asking then ask other questions. The seeds of the future are in those Australian owned companies and our farmers, many of whom have the answers. Are we listening?

No Money for Food – Where is it Going?

 

According to a journalist who has taken a forensic look at the Budget, the Government will be spending nearly half $B ($464M) in the next six weeks to promote something yet unknown. The inference is to buy votes or promote the NBN. This is either borrowed money or our money, yet we do nothing to plan for the long term future and sustainability of our food processors and farmers.  The Farmer Power Group established recently identified the plight on farms as incomes continue to decline.

 

Concerned people need to understand that food security is an issue of national importance – our farming skills, knowledge of the land, and investment in processing and value adding represent what is left of our manufacturing here in our cities and across regions. Australia has no major food company left relative to global brands. Our open door policies to imports, many of which do not meet our standards, our high dollar and the For Sale on our businesses and land exacerbate the problem. We have been complicit in allowing this to happen through poor policies and failure to plan long term. What we need to see is our Governments represented the long term interests and sustainability of the people they purport to represent. We need to support our owned while we still can.

 

 AUSBUY represents Australian owned companies exclusively and initiated a Food Security group nearly four years ago which identified the lack of research since 1998 to show the impact of policies on farm gate profitability and potential loss of skills. 

 

 Interviews can be arranged Lynne Wilkinson CEO AUSBUY 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”.

Can This Farmer Defeat Monsanto?

Article on The Safe food Foundation Website

Lately, genetically manipulated (GM) food has been a widely covered subject in the media in Australia and around the World. As with all agricultural practices, health and safety must be first priority when making decisions on how our farmland should be cultivated and GM is no different. There are many reasons to investigate what GM in our food supply will mean in relation to health and safety but these are not the only calls for possible concern. Lest we forget, our freedom of choice is compromised by GM when such crops run rampant and contamination is uncontrolled. When GM crops are grown next to non-GM crops we often see issues of contamination. This contamination may be due to many factors including human error, wind, birds, bees and floods and can result in a widespread and unintentional cultivation of GM crops. Allowing such contamination to continue means the loss of a farmer’s right to grow what they choose and the consumer’s choice to purchase and consume GM-free foods. To accept the takeover of our farmland by patented, corporate-owned seeds is to take the land from the farmers and the people and willing give it to the corporations.

In the farming community of Kojonup, WA, organic farmer Steve Marsh is taking a stand against GM contamination. In 2010, the WA state government lifted the moratorium on GM canola, opening up the state’s agricultural sector to the cultivation of this GM crop for the first time. As a result of this change in policy many farmers, including Marsh’s next door neighbour, began growing GM canola. After a high wind, one day Steve found GM canola dried plants spread over much of his farm, loaded with dry seed falling off onto his land. Consequently, Steve lost his organic certification when the certifying body, NASAA (The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Australia) found 70 percent of his property had been contaminated with GM canola.

As a result of the contamination, Steve and his family are no longer able to sell their product on the organic market and have lost a great deal of their income. It’s shocking to think we live in a world where corporations are often free from responsibility in relation to their products infringing the rights of others. However, due to the liability agreement Monsanto has farmers sign, the corporate giant is ‘off the hook’ when it comes to cases of contamination. Thus, Australia is set to see the first case of an organic farmer proactively seeking compensation from a GM farmer when his rights have been violated by a biotech invasion. This is something that Steve does not want to do but he has no other option if he wants to stand up for his rights as well as ours. Due to inadequate labeling, often the only way to eat foods free from GM is to eat organic. This makes Steve’s case and the contamination of the organic industry an issue beyond labeling. Once our organic food supply is contaminated, reading a label won’t make a difference because ALL food will contain GM!

So instead of accepting this adulteration of his farmland, Steve has taken a stand against the invasion of genetically modified crops. In an unprecedented case, Steve is taking his neighbour to court for compensation of loss and damages. The international law firm of Slater & Gordon has taken on the case under their public interest policy (good on them!) but that does not entirely relieve the financial stress of this case as there will be a great deal of disbursements in fighting such a legal battle. Money is needed for barristers, court costs and expert witnesses and this is expected to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

For more information about Steve Marsh and this precedent-setting case against GM and food contamination, please visit The Safe Food Foundation.

Governments should by Aussie-made: Vic Opposition

The Victorian Opposition says governments across the country should be forced to buy Australian-made made cars in order to support local manufacturers.

In light of Holden’s decision to axe 500 workers Opposition leader Daniel Andrews told reporters governments should focus on buying Australian-made vehicles.

Andrews also defended government support of the manufacturing industry, and claimed the sector produced economic and skill benefits for the entire country.

“The thing that should be considered nationally is not a withdrawal from the automotive sector but in fact a national procurement and purchasing, national buy-local campaign, so that every car that can be purchased in any government fleet across Australia is in fact an Australian-made vehicle,” he said.

“That would be a step forward, that’s the sort of thing that we should be putting on the COAG table and if we have to have an argument, then so be it.”

Andrews’ call follows union anger over Energy Safe Victoria’s plans to buy foreign-made cars for its workforce.

Last month the Australian Workers Union said the decision was a “slap in the face” for local workers, and the Department said it was undertaking a review of its purchasing policy.

http://www.manmonthly.com.au/news/governments-should-by-aussie-made-vic-opposition

 

AUSBUY Response

In the car industry the large manufacturers are foreign owned here and they get the subsidies directly, not the local businesses. At issue is the flow-on effect to the many small local businesses that supply component parts (over 1,200). The issue is the loss of skills and our capacity to generate wealth in this country. While some of these businesses export it puts greater pressure on them for survival. These are highly skilled smaller businesses. The majority represent private Australian investment and ownership. If hand outs are given they should be tied to innovation and performance and reinvestment here, not a short term fix to keep foreign companies here. Giving access with lower tariffs to our market to emerging economies such as Thailand created a gateway for other countries to enter and compete directly with our manufacturers. This is not helped our local suppliers. It is not competition when each side plays to a different set of rules – invariably we pay. The Australian Companies Institute Limited (AUSBUY) has advocated that Government procurement should give priority to Australian owned and made businesses because tax payer’s money should be reinvested here. AUSBUY has a $50 a week test – If every householder spent $50 a week on Australian owned and made goods we would have a multiplier effect within our economy of $50B.

 

Imagine the difference it would make if all levels of Government gave priority to our own businesses with the requirement 51% of the project costs, skills and jobs here. It would reinvigorate our economy and renew confidence in our future prosperity. In a rapidly changing world, control of our manufacturing and skills are an issue of national security. We do not have a national plan, and without a long term plan who will pay of our national debt. Prosperity is borne of obligation to a society, not entitlement.

 

Having said the above some Federal politicians lament the fact they have to drive in locally made cars. One questions the “intent: of their decisions if Australia’s interests do not get priority.

 

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