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Clap hands for yet another LNP/ALP free trade deal this time destroying $1.75B sugar

Dairy, citrus, potato, pineapple, prawn, fishing industries, motor vehicles, pulp, paper, fibre, fuel, plastics and more finished, now sugar

HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has urged the Federal Government to stand up for Australian cane farmers after India’s decision to dump millions of tonnes of subsidised sugar on the world market.

The Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) MP, whose electorate is home to a sugar industry worth more than $300 million a year, said India’s actions were a kick in the guts for local cane farmers.

“This is a disgraceful decision by India at a time when our producers are already dealing with a poor world sugar price below the cost of production,” he said.

“It is not a level playing field when India’s sugar industry is getting the equivalent of an $850 million government assistance package, including help to export their product,” he said.

Mr Dametto’s call for action was backed up by KAP leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter who was also furious at the situation.

The Australian sugar industry in about to collapse. It employs 16,000 and total revenue is $1.75billion. Of a national 4100 farms many growers will have to exit the industry. The free trade policies of the ALP/LNP duopoly have sounded the death knell for yet another primary industry.

“Our country will not survive continuing to be what economist Trevor Sykes called the “only virgin in the brothel,” Mr Katter said.

“Most of my last speeches in Parliament have been what I’ve hoped are fierce attacks upon the hypocrisy of free trade; upon our industry representative organisations particularly in agriculture.

All we’ve got out of these bodies in Canberra is a clapping of hands for every free trade deal.

“What country on earth free trades?”

Mr Katter also cast doubt on the willingness of industrial countries like China or India to be transparent when it came to playing by the rules on free trade.

“Does anyone seriously believe that China or India free trade?” he said.

“The damage done by deregulation has been colossal. The damage was done by national Liberal governments. The National Competition Policy was forced upon the states by the Federal Government. I know this because I was then in that Federal Government and this was one of the major reasons I left.

“Before deregulation, the sugar producer was receiving $473 a tonne and the price to the consumer was $1040 a tonne (104c per/kg). A mark-up of around 100 per cent.

The “current price” to the producer is $317 per tonne and the price on the shelf is $1750 per tonne ($1.75 per/kg). That’s nearly a 600 per cent mark up.

“The supermarket chains have said “thank you, we love you Mr Government. You have enabled us now to charge the consumers a 600 per cent mark-up instead of a 100 percent mark-up”.

“American farmers get paid for sugar around $600 a tonne, French farmers’ $700 tonne, Thailand farmers around $450 a tonne, and Australian farmers, $317 a tonne. We have the most poorly paid sugar farmers in the world and that is the outcome of government free-market policies.

Mr Katter said free trade had ravaged multiple agricultural industries in Australia, pointing to the US Free Trade Agreement as an example.

“The American free trade deal was about dairy, beef and sugar. The value to dairying was quoted as one free ice-cream a week for each farmer. The cattle industry has always had a fairly good deal on access and the sugar industry was wiped like a dirty rag. It got nothing.

“Mark Vaile, the then National Party Minister for Trade, said before a negotiations started, “There would be no deal unless sugar was included”. To call anyone in the National Party a liar is not really correct, they are actually jokes. They are not the beer in the bottle; they’re the label that tells you how good the beer is.

“When Tony Abbott rose to his feet to congratulate Andrew Robb on securing the free trade deal with China, all the Liberals and their flunkies – the Nationals – stood up and gave a standing ovation. I said to the MP next door to me, “Abbott just wrote his own death warrant”.

“A couple of months later, he was gone.

“What they don’t tell you on beef, is yes, you can get beef into the US free of tariffs (around two per cent), but the USA beef subsidy is around 30 per cent. Under the Free Trade Agreement, it stays.

“The subsidy in India on ‘fertiliser alone’ was, when I last looked, $2.3 billion a year. The Indians believe in cheap food for their people, and quite rightly so. The ALP and LNP believe in free trade – yeah, for the supermarket giants.

“But clearly not in cheap food for the people.”

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At last the Liberals officially reveal the salient details of TransPacific Partnership

The Liberal Member for the Federal seat of Leichardt, FNQ, Warren Entsch has released the official explanation of the TPP:

On behalf of theHon Warren Entsch MP
Office of the Hon. Warren Entsch MP
Federal Member for Leichhardt
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Thank you for your email regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations. Mr Entsch has asked that I respond on his behalf. We have had a number of our constituents contact us regarding the TPP and so contacted the Minister’s office responsible for this matter, because it is quite a complex issue and the following response hopefully will allay your fears. Before actually becoming law it will be openly discussed in Parliament and have to pass through both the Lower and Upper Houses.

As a region-wide free trade agreement, the TPP offers an opportunity to strengthen job-creating trade and investment, and further integrate Australia into the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region by pursuing common and liberalising policy outcomes.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will be unprecedented in its scale and level of ambition. The twelve countries that have negotiated the TPP – Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam represent almost 40 per cent of the global economy – or around US$28 trillion.

Benefits of the TPP will be broad-ranging;

  • for Australian businesses – by creating more export opportunities in the Asia Pacific;
  • for Australian consumers – by lowering the costs and increasing the variety of goods available in Australia; and
  • for the Australian economy – by promoting economic growth in the Asia Pacific, further integrating Australia into the region, and creating a common platform for expanding trade into the 21st Century.

Once concluded the TPP will be the largest trade agreement since the creation of the World Trade Organization, and represents the most significant restatement and enhancement of trade policy rules since the mid-1990s. Once finalised, TPP membership will be open to other economies in the Asia Pacific to promote prosperity and strategic stability.

Because we have received a number of constituent concerns regarding the TPP and its effects and we have therefore compiled a number of answers to cover all situations as follows:

Restricting the Government’s ability to regulate

The Australian Government is not intending to sign up to international agreements that would restrict Australia’s capacity to govern in our own interest – whether in the area of healthcare, the environment or any other regulated area of the economy.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provides an opportunity for Australian investors to protect their investments overseas against expropriation and to ensure that they are afforded a certain minimum standard of treatment, and treated in a non-discriminatory manner.

ISDS provisions have been included in agreements over the past three decades to provide protection for those who choose to pursue new opportunities for Australia by investing abroad. Australia has ISDS provisions in place with 28 economies.

The Government is considering the inclusion of ISDS provisions in Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) under negotiation on a case-by-case basis. In the TPP negotiations, the Government will agree to ISDS if certain conditions are met by other TPP countries.

Contrary to some public commentary, ISDS does not protect an investor from a mere loss of profits and does not prevent a Government from changing its policies or regulating in the public interest. A loss of profits, by itself, does not amount to a breach of an FTA.

Should the Government agree to the inclusion of ISDS provisions in any of the FTAs under negotiation, we will seek to ensure that the Government is not restricted in its ability to protect public health and the environment. Further information can be found at www.dfat.gov.au/fta/isds-faq.html.

Pharmaceuticals

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) is an integral part of Australia’s health system and the Government will not agree to an outcome in the TPP negotiations which would adversely affect the PBS or Australia’s health system more generally.

Australia’s position on Intellectual Property

The Government considers that the TPP negotiations provide an important opportunity to establish effective and balanced protection and enforcement of intellectual property (IP) across the region, in the interests of Australian importers, exporters and consumers. The Government is seeking an outcome on IP in the TPP negotiations that is consistent with Australia’s existing laws, improves transparency and which will streamline the processes for protecting and enforcing IP rights in the region.

Australia has an effective and balanced intellectual property regime, and the Government does not intend to alter the current system through the TPP.

Copyright and the digital environment

I would like to assure you that the Government fully understands the importance of maintaining policy flexibilities, especially for the digital environment. Australia is supporting effective and balanced commitments on copyright in the TPP negotiations that retain the policy flexibilities we currently have. This is particularly important to enable the Government to consider domestic developments, such as the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report following its inquiry into copyright and the digital economy.

Access to medicines

Also issues regarding intellectual property provisions of the TPP and access to medicines. The Government understands the need for access to affordable medicines, both in Australia and in other countries. The Government is working to negotiate a TPP that is in Australia’s national interests, and that supports each Party’s right to protect public health and promote access to medicines. In particular, Australia’s TPP negotiating position takes into consideration input and advice on the potential impact of TPP proposals on Australia’s overseas aid program and developing TPP countries.

At the same time, the Government recognises the role of intellectual property in providing incentives and rewards for investment in pharmaceutical research and development. Ultimately, any outcome on pharmaceutical intellectual property issues in the TPP negotiations must strike an appropriate balance for Australia in promoting investment in innovation, and supporting timely and affordable access to medicines.

Tobacco

Australia is carefully analysing the inclusion of tobacco control language in the TPP negotiations. Under existing international trade obligations, Australia has the right to implement tobacco control measures, such as plain packaging for tobacco products, in the interests of public health. Australia will consider any proposal in the TPP negotiations that confirms this right.

Labeling

Nothing being discussed in the TPP negotiations will weaken Australia’s policies or regulations on food or alcohol labeling. Australia’s ability to regulate food labeling will not be diminished. All Parties will retain their current rights under the World Trade Organization to make policy related to human health, safety and the environment.

State Owned Enterprises

The Government supports disciplines on State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in the TPP negotiations that will ensure that entities compete in their commercial activities on an equal footing with the private sector and do not benefit from advantages provided by government. Australia will continue to pursue disciplines that would maintain the Government’s right to use SOEs that serve a public purpose.

Labour

Concerns about labour issues under discussion in the TPP. We expect the TPP Labour Chapter will set a new benchmark that will benefit workers across the region by promoting compliance with internationally-recognised labour rights and the effective enforcement of labour laws. While dispute settlement for the Labour Chapter remains subject to negotiations, we expect that the final outcome will include an effective enforcement mechanism.

Environment

The TPP Environment Chapter will promote high levels of environmental protection in the TPP region. Australia is seeking to negotiate environmental commitments on issues where trade rules can help to address environmental challenges, including through liberalising trade in environmental goods and services and disciplines on fish subsidies that contribute to over-fishing. We are also working with other parties on trade-related ways to support objectives on conservation, biodiversity and other pressing environmental issues.

Leaked Negotiating Text

The Government is aware that documents purporting to be a leaked version of the TPP have been made public. As is normal practice in trade negotiations, the parties have agreed to keep negotiating documents, including text, confidential, though allowing for governmental consultation processes with stakeholders. The Government will not speculate on the accuracy or otherwise of so-called ‘leaked text’. Negotiating text is a dynamic document, changing regularly, and has no status until all parties have agreed to it.

Consumer protection

Consumer protection and best practice regulation is an important aspect of the TPP negotiations. Australia does not intend, through the TPP negotiations or any other trade negotiations, to diminish the level of consumer protection available in Australia. DFAT works closely with key agencies and consults with groups such as CHOICE in developing Australia’s approach to these issues.

Geoblocking

The Government is aware that Australians consumers are concerned about the price they pay for items purchased via the internet. As part of TPP negotiations, Australia has raised the profile of ‘geoblocking’ as a commercial practice which has an impact on how consumers engage in electronic commerce.

Transparency in TPP negotiations

Contrary to some reported claims, the TPP negotiations are not secret. The Australian Government made a public announcement about involvement in the TPP negotiations in late 2008 and has been carrying out domestic stakeholder consultations since that time.

As is standard practice with the negotiation of international treaties, draft TPP negotiating texts are not public documents. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is however taking every opportunity to ensure that stakeholders are adequately consulted and able to express their views. There will be an opportunity for full public and Parliamentary discussion prior to any agreement being ratified. In accordance with the Government’s treaty-making process, once the TPP text is agreed it will be tabled in Parliament for 20 joint sitting days to facilitate public consultations and scrutiny by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) before any binding treaty action is taken. Once tabled, the treaty text and an accompanying National Interest Analysis will be published on the JSCOT website and in the online Australian Treaties Library. Further information about the TPP can be found on the Department’s website, at: www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/tpp/.

Consultation – for stakeholder groups

The Australian Government commenced public domestic stakeholder consultations in late 2008 and they are ongoing. Australia’s negotiating positions have been, and continue to be, guided by consultations with a range of stakeholders. The Government will continue to take every available opportunity to consult with stakeholders and is always open to receiving written submissions and meeting with interested parties. I would encourage you to continue to participate in this consultative process.

I trust that this information is of assistance.

Here is a recent article you may wish to read.

Sid Maher, The Australian 13 April 2015

“Farmers predict Australian agricultural exports could double by 2030 if the Trans- Pacific Partnership trade agreement is clinched as the Coalition and Labor continue to back negotiations despite escalating attacks from the Greens and anti-trade activists”

Free trade agreement more billows of bulldust from Canberra

17 November 2014: REPORTS that the Federal Government will sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with China today, is simply more billows of bulldust from Canberra which will blow away the last venture of manufacturing and decimate agriculture in this country, KAP Leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter said today.

“At the present rate the Chinese are gobbling 6-7% ownership of Australian agriculture each year, according to the figures I have seen.

“This is really a joke; the Chinese are practically taking the tariffs off themselves.

“After 9 years, when the dairy tariffs are phased out, the vast bulk of the food exports into China will be produced on Australian land owned by Chinese, produced by the Chinese and manned by section 457 Chinese workers. Indeed, it is very generous of them to take tariffs off their own products they are exporting from Australia to China,” said Mr Katter.

“The ridiculousness of all this is that is we don’t have anything to trade with. We don’t have any subsidies and tariffs to remove. We have no bargaining chips to trade with in this country.

“We had the National Party Minister tell us how the American free trade agreement will save Australian agriculture and at the time there was only three areas where we weren’t free trading – sugar, dairy and beef.

“Once the agreement was finalised there was absolutely no benefit to the sugar, dairy or beef industries and to requote one of Australia’s leading economists the only benefit Australia received was an ice cream a week.

“The Americans blew away our strict quarantine protections under the previous free trade agreement, and we are certain our quarantine protections will be further eroded with this. Their diseased product will be allowed into Australia, and for how much longer will we be clean and green?

“Meantime there is a farmer being foreclosed on every four days in Australia.

“We will be very specific and warn my fellow Australians unless you sink the ship load of eco-rats that run Canberra and occupy seats in Parliament that we will continue to witness the complete and utter destruction of Australian agriculture,” Mr Katter said.