09/03/2004 - 21:00

FTA is far from flawed

09/03/2004 - 21:00


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I HAVE been doing as much analysis of the free trade agreement with the US as possible and I simply can’t understand the objections that are arising from vested interests around the country, led by sugar growers.

I HAVE been doing as much analysis of the free trade agreement with the US as possible and I simply can’t understand the objections that are arising from vested interests around the country, led by sugar growers.

While it is unfortunate that agricultural trade terms in many areas could not be improved immediately, that doesn’t mean the agreement is flawed.

Anything that allows better trade with the major world economy has to be a bonus.

Sugar growers are no worse off for the agreement, so they have no right to complain just because other sectors did receive a benefit.

What has gone missing in action here is any discussion of the future opportunities for Australia.

While agriculture and, in more recent decades, mining have always led Australian trade, services and technology are taking an increasing share of the world’s economy, and the US economy in particular.

This is where the growth opportunities will arise – often in products and services we have never heard of today.

I would hope this free trade agreement ensures that these new things can be freely traded without vested interests on either side using them as political footballs.

The wine industry is a case in point.

A classic value-added agricultural product, no-one could have imagined that exports to the US could go from almost nothing to a serious trade item in just 10 years.

Suddenly, Australian wine became a pawn in the trade wars we engage in – mainly over issues such as steel and lamb.

An FTA will hopefully remove such concerns for other growth industries.

Sugar growers will simply have to chip away at convincing their US counterparts that their country’s claims to be a free trading capitalist nation are no more than fairy floss – or any other sugar-coated product.

GST pay-off

THE announcement last week that Western Australia has won a bigger slice of GST revenue than in previous years was welcome, especially as it came amid the wash-up of the Western Power debacle.

Wasn’t that lucky timing.

But the good vibes didn’t last long – the other States are crying foul. So maybe we’ll never get what we deserve.

Storm troopers are suited up

THE State tax squeeze WA Business News published last week generated some strong feedback from industry.

Business thought we were spot-on in highlighting that the WA Government has ramped up efforts to extract more tax by increasing audits and subsequent claims, even though the merit of its new demands is in question.

Interestingly, business tells us it is not just the State Government. It appears the Federal Government is in there too, aiming squarely at the GST.

Now that we have all accepted the GST’s 10 per cent increase in costs (without much in the way in income tax relief … readers might want to insert the words ‘bracket creep’ here), the honeymoon is over, and the tax storm troopers are getting tough.

Designed to succeed

I HAD an interesting conversation over a few beers the other day – about WA’s lack of acceptance of quality in design.

It was suggested that too often we accept second best, perhaps preferring to save money than have things looking good.

Of course, we have achieved spectacularly in so many other areas. Maybe we are just a little slow off the mark in this regard.

Development dilemma

FINALLY, another conversation I had reiterated the need for due process in key decisions.

I asked some land developers why it is that WA, with more beautiful coastline than any part of the world that I can think of, has such an aversion to high-rise development of any kind. The words ‘Gold Coast’ are almost an obscenity in WA.

The developers’ view is that the issue revolves around the development of Observation City at Scarborough, which was built by Alan Bond after an approval process that became a subject of the WA Inc Royal Commission.

With so much coast line there is no reason why we couldn’t have areas with high rise that don’t impact on other nearby dwellings. Instead, we avoid the issue like the plague.

It just goes to show that corruption and poor practice provide the fodder for those who would prefer the world stood still. Both are wrong.





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