08/09/2015 - 06:22

Labor shows anti-business bias

08/09/2015 - 06:22


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Elections do at least allow the people to choose the kind of economy they want to live in.

Labor shows anti-business bias
FLOW-THROUGH: Australian motorists have benefited from FTAs with South Korea and Japan. Photo: iStockphoto/EdStock

Elections do at least allow the people to choose the kind of economy they want to live in.

Too often the complaint about politics is that it is difficult to differentiate Australia’s two major parties.

But Labor, it seems, is finally keen to really create a point of difference around several key areas of economic policy, which pits it against the interests of mainstream business.

The biggest policy issue is the challenge to the proposed China-Australia free trade agreement; but it is not the only one of significance lately.

Last month, the Labor opposition in Western Australia agreed at its state conference to seek a moratorium on fracking in the state and to have an inquiry into taxes paid by major resources projects.

At the same time, Annastacia Palaszczuk’s Labor government in Queensland decided to end sand mining on North Stradbroke Island.

And last month, Labor councillors backed a vote by the City of Newcastle to withdraw funds from banks that fund fossil-fuel industries such as coal, on which much of that city’s wealth has been derived.

In many cases the unions are behind the formation of these policy positions. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has held the banner in the case of the China FTA, but it seems it is very much being pushed hard by the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union 

For the WA policies it was, reportedly, the Maritime Union of Australia.

Intriguingly, the Australian Workers Union was on the losing end in Queensland.

In most of these cases, sensible policy debate is drowned out by scaremongering aimed at the most vulnerable in the electorate.

This is the same kind of policy stance that stopped uranium mining in WA for decades, doing nothing but raising the cost of the fuel for users and ensuring economies other than ours benefited from selling it.

I am intrigued as to wonder why the MUA pushed two anti-business policies at the recent state Labor conference. For a union whose members have gained so much from oil and gas development in the north-west, it seems odd for it to bite the hand that feeds it at a time when the very business rationale for investing in WA at such great cost is being questioned.

As for fracking, that’s onshore and, therefore, of no direct interest to seamen whatsoever – unless they are concerned about such gas competing with offshore gas processors such as Chevron and others. Now that would be ironic.

In terms of all these anti-business policies of Labor, the FTA with China is the most concerning. Australia, under both Liberal and Labor governments, has been incredibly successful in making bilateral free trade agreements that have opened up our economy and benefited the majority of our citizens by helping us achieve decades of uninterrupted growth.

While there have been losers, they are most often the protected industries whose participants, both business and labour, demand that they enjoy profits and wages above what they would otherwise earn at the cost of the majority. The car industry is the classic example; a few thousand workers in Adelaide and Geelong benefited while the rest of Australia paid 40-50 per cent more than needed to for what is an essential piece of equipment in a place like this.

The CFMEU is pretending its members are the biggest losers in the Chinese deal, even though the element it finds most affronting is a visa arrangement similar to Labor’s Enterprise Migration Agreements, which were, unfortunately in my view, barely ever used and never cost anyone a job.

The truth is the CFMEU and the ACTU just want the Labor Party back in power; and if they have to use the pretence of cheap Chinese labour as a dog-whistle to vulnerable electorates such as Canning, so be it. The left, especially unions, has history in this department; the enemy used to be the US, and then it was the Japanese.

The cost of these anti-development policies is always difficult to quantify, but at least in Queensland we have an idea.

The state government there has earmarked $20 million for a transition plan to help the Stradbroke Island economy survive the shutdown.

So instead of allowing a stable micro economy another 20 years of life with a lease extension, it will now become a burden on other taxpayers. No doubt we’ll all one day hear about the new jobs created in tourism and the like; without the true facts on employment numbers, royalties and other taxes that are to be forgone.


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