||Issue No. 233||13 August 2004|
Interview: Trading Places
Safety: Snow Job
Politics: In the Vanguard
Unions: Gentle Giant Goes For Gold
Bad Boss: 'Porker' Chases Blue Ribbon
International: Cruising For A Bruising
History: Under the Influence
Economics: Working Capital
Review: Fahrenheit 9/11
Poetry: Bad Intelligence Rap
Satire: Osama Bin Manchu
The Locker Room
While the advocates, particularly the agriculture sector may be waiting for the rivers of gold, the main challenge for those concerned about the impact of the deal on the broader economy is to minimise the damage.
As a report prepared by Peter Brain the National Institute of Economic Research and Nixon Apple from the AMWU argues the Australian economy is not ''free trade ready' - and this, more than any line item in the FTA, will damage our national interest.
What do they mean by this? In short they argue, that the Australian economy is not at a stage of development that will allow it to thrive where government has placed itself in a public policy straight jacket.
While we like to see ourselves as an economic miracle that has withstood the pressures of the Asian meltdown and the global war on terror with low inflation and low unemployment, they warn our economic foundations are on shaky ground.
They point to an economy based on household debt, inflated property prices pushing further borrowing, an army of hidden unemployed and a nation where poverty is concentrated in areas traditionally sustained by the manufacturing sector.
In short, the Australian economy may look good on the surface, but it needs constant care and attention from the government to stay in shape - the very support that the FTA aims to outlaw.
For example, the FTA will limit governments' rights to implement 'Australian made' procurement policies as a way of fostering local industry.
Yes, the agreement allows Australian firms to compete for US government contracts. But, the author's question, how many firms are really at a size and influence that they will be able to knock off American counterparts.
Those industries that could develop into global, will have to do so in a climate of chronic under-investment in local research and development,
And with Australia submitting itself to the US's intellectual property regime, our ability to develop new technologies will be subject to the courts of another nation.
While the 'Knowledge Economy' has not been on the political landscape since it got swamped by Barry Jones spaghetti and meatballs recipe before the last federal election, it is this idea - of high-skilled, high-income industries that will be the real casualty of the FTA.
The risk for Australia is that we become squeezed between the high-tech superpowers and the growing low-wage Asian economies; leaving us nothing but raw materials and tourism to trade in the global economy.
This 'pastoralisation' of the economy is the real threat of the FTA, an economy that locks itself out of wealth, growth and opportunity by letting other nations do the t5ough work of developing new technologies,
If this isn't to happen our leaders will need to work within the new FTA to chart a course that provides hope for manufacturing and the 40,000 manufacturing workers ho stand to lose their jobs under this agreement.
At its heart its about governments doing what we pay them for, showing leadership and vision and maximising the chances for this and future generations.
Mark Latham undoubtedly won the politics on the FTA with his classic triangulation ploy of shifting the debate to cheap medicine and thus robbing the PM of his long-awaited US Alliance wedge issue.
But now there is the much harder policy work to get right if this deal does not end up strapping us back to the sheep's back.
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