Tag Archives: labelling laws

Defining Rulers

India has several thousand years of history under various ruling regimes, and today is the largest democracy. So not unexpectedly they have identified four kinds of rulers that would be in power any one time in a country’s history. These definitions apply whether the regime is democratic, republic, monarchy, communism or dictatorship.

Leaders: provide vision and cohesion, engage people to realise and share the vision; Intellectuals: have ideas, but unable to translate these and gain wide support; Warriors: Defend what Leaders or Intellectuals have created or overthrow until new rulers energy; Proletariat (the Masses): Mob rule and anarchy. The cycle of such rule can over centuries. The masses do not rule for long.

Under our current system of government small parties are entitled to run in an election without evidence that they have the capacity to represent their members let alone the wider constituency. When small Parties or individuals are in such numbers that they can override the majority in our preferential system, governing for all is not workable. We have seen this happen over the past three years especially and may yet see it again in our House of Review.

It could be a lesson to the major Parties to listen to the concerns of our citizens more and to be seen to be acting accordingly.

It is a lesson to us as citizens, that the rights we enjoy were hard won and it is not what Australia can do for us but what we can do for Australia.

Selling Our Land & Wealth Creating Assets to Foreign Interests & Countries

If anyone can put up a rational case for what is happening in this country and who is really making the decisions, then we would welcome the discussion.

The sale of our wealth creating assets, our land and our businesses continues to be condoned unabated by our decision makers in Canberra. The countries buying our assets do not reciprocate the opportunities even to their own citizens. No one seems prepared to count the long term cost to Australia’s long term security and financial viability when you combine the lenient tax rules for foreign interest to buy our assets and cash flow, and the Australians acting as real estate agents with companies set up to siphon profits off shore.

Again we see a Chinese company not only purchase the farm, it has bought the port facilities that were built using Australian taxpayers money. The Chinese company has been allowed to buy assets giving it a vertically integrated operation from paddock to plate to sell to itself. While over the past few decades we have allowed the control of every major food commodity except rice to be controlled beyond the farm gate by foreign companies. Several of which are privately owned and dominate in more than one commodity sector.

How does it benefit Australia when they own the land, the supply chain and are exporting to themselves?

How does it benefit Australia when Australian governments give foreign interests money to invest here – $450M from WA Government and $174M from the Federal Government to encourage the Chinese to buy the lease for Stage 2 of the Ord – a $600m asset from which they will benefit. Fifty years is a long time in a country’s history.

It has taken Australian over 200 years to build these assets, it will take less than two decades to dismantle our control of these.

In the meantime our farmers are under great financial pressure and our government wants to “lend” them money at variable market interest rates to help them survive the drought.  Is this representing our short and long term interests?

 

Australian Broadcasting Corporation http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2013/s3809433.htm

Broadcast: 23/07/2013

Reporter: Bronwyn Herbert

China’s biggest state-owned agricultural conglomerate has bought farmland and port facilities in Western Australia and the move has sharply divided responses.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: It’s an emotive issue across rural Australia. Cashed up foreigners buying land and speeding the demise of the family farm.

In the latest example China’s biggest State owned agricultural conglomerate has for the first time invested in the Australian market, buying up vast tracks of farmland in Western Australia as well as port facilities to ship its grain out of the country.

There’s no doubt foreign capital helps boost economic growth but it’s also breeding resentment, as Bronwyn Herbert reports.

WILL CROZIER, VICSTOCK GLOBAL: Yeah, g’day, mate, it’s Will. Good, really good, thanks. Look, just want to go over that asset register for our eastern property.

BRONWYN HERBERT, REPORTER: Will Crozier has a lot on his mind. The former farmer from Geelong is now an international deal maker in agriculture.

WILL CROZIER: Yeah, fantastic. Ten mills, overnight.

BRONWYN HERBERT: And the purchase of this farm four hours south of Perth is one of the biggest he’s negotiated. It’s part of a $150 million investment by China’s largest agricultural company.

WILL CROZIER: The vision is massive. The development is massive so far and it’s only a start.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Beidahuang lays claim to being the world’s biggest farming operation. It already grows more than 70 million tonnes of grain globally, has a permanent work force of 300,000 people and operates in more than 30 countries. But the purchase of more than 40,000 hectares of farmland in WA’s south is the company’s first foray into Australian agriculture and this is its first crop.

WILL CROZIER: Beidahuang farm all over the world. They’re the biggest farming operation in the world. I think it’s 70 million tonnes of grain annually that they crop. This is the first time that we’ve, that they’ve been introduced to Australia, Australian techniques, Australian technology and Australian climate.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Beidahuang through its new Australian subsidiary Heilongjiang Agriculture, hasn’t just bought the farm. It’s also purchased port facilities at nearby Albany to vertically integrate its operations. This creates its own paddock to plate supply chain from WA to northern China.

MARY NENKE, WEST AUSTRALIAN FARMER: They’re going to be shipping the grain out of Albany. Are they going to be bringing in empty ships or are they going to be filling them with their own machinery, their own fertiliser, their own chemical?

BRONWYN HERBERT: Mary Nenke and her family are fourth generation wheat farmers in southern WA who have also diversified into yabby farming.

MARY NENKE: These are business people, they’re not there for our good, they’re there for their good. In our patch there are people paying up to 17 per cent interest. These people will be, you know, it will be Chinese money, what interest rates will they be paying? When you can’t compete in your own country what next?

WILL CROZIER: There’s nothing to be afraid about. This is simply a new stream of capital coming in to rural Australia.

BRONWYN HERBERT: The Beidahuang deal like the Ord River expansion signed last year with a private Chinese firm are exactly what the WA Premier Colin Barnett and his ministry are promoting.

KEN BASTON, WA AGRICULTURE MINISTER: I believe that that investment, you know, employs people, employs jobs, it has regional development because they’re obviously they’re not city centric, they’re out in the country so regional areas thrive with that capital investment there. And of course what we’re actually doing is we’re supplying the food chain of the world.

BRONWYN HERBERT: Bill Heffernan leads the Senate rural and regional affairs committee which has been investigating whether purchases like these are in the national interest.

BILL HEFFERNAN, LIBERAL SENATOR: It would be a great pity if Australia’s farmers ended up as tenants and tenant farmers and unlike the prospect of capital growth to hand on to the family, only have the job to hand on and I guess there’s a warning there.

BRONWYN HERBERT: At last count around 11 per cent of the nation’s farmland was in foreign hands. But Bill Heffernan says no one really knows what the exact figure is, which is why it’s crucial a foreign land registry is set up.

BILL HEFFERNAN: We need to do that and then we need to model that out for 20 or 30 years given the present law and the present practices and then say to ourselves “is that where we want to be in 20 or 30 years as a nation?” Because it’s my view that under the present arrangements we are redefining sovereignty.

MARY NENKE: The thing is they’re saying it’s good for us. Would it be good if all our suburbs of the city were owned by China and then we were renting back the houses from China? That’s exactly what it is. They’re suggesting, and banks are suggesting this, that it would be better for farmers to sell their land and then rent it back.

BRONWYN HERBERT: For Will Crozier, it’s the way of the future.

WILL CROZIER: Looking at substantial gains, we’re looking at substantial markets coming in here. It’s a great thing for Australia. I’m very, very proud to be a part of it.

LEIGH SALES: Bronwyn Herbert reporting.

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.

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