Screaming the wrong message

THE dogmatic and screaming activists are back – and with a vengeance.

Not in any great strength in WA as yet, but they certainly roused up the numbers for eastern Australia last week for their first big screaming fest.

Nearly 10,000 flocked to Melbourne’s Crown Casino, where about 1,000 high-flying company executives and politicians met for a World Economic Forum (WEF) talk-fest on Asia and the Pacific region.

The carefully-planned and orchestrated countermove by the screamers was to simply yell at and block delegates for several days because the screamers hate “globalisation”.

From the few who were identified in the press, we know they flew in from as far off as Brisbane and Geraldton, to yell, scream and shout at globalisation.

The 20th Century has, of course, had more than its fair share of dogmatic political activists.

Earlier ones had backed Soviet-style socialism called Stalinism, others saw Hitler as a saviour, others still looked to Maoist China, Kim Il Sung’s North Korea, or Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam.

Others backed Arthur Scargill’s approach that so badly bruised Britain for so long.

In all cases these misguided backers of lost causes at least had a model to lobby for, so we knew the type of world they wanted.

But their fervour suddenly evaporated when a man called Mikhail Gorbachev, once first secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, said such dogmatic nonsense was costing his people dearly, so Lenin’s crackpot jackpot ideas were scrapped.

Ten years on a new dogmatic generation has emerged in search of a new impractical economic order that excludes freedom of trade.

The new ones differ from the old in that they have no program, no alternative, no blueprint, nothing, just screaming and yelling at globalisation.

But they’re not even original, for Melbourne’s screaming fest was a copy cat affair of Seattle’s mass hysteria where thousands of American crazies shouted and yelled several days at a World Trade Organisation conference.

If only Australia’s screamers stopped and thought, they may realise their hatred of globalisation meant opposition to international trade and investment – two things WA particularly so desperately needs if living standards in this out-of-the-way-corner of the world are to remain high.

Try imagining WA without the following few big export-oriented ticket items: gold, alumina, iron ore, and diamonds, grain and livestock exports.

l WA’s gold output reached 211 tonnes in 1999 with exports valued at $2.6 billion.

l In the same year, WA’s total alumina exports reached 8.9 million tonnes valued at $2.3 billion.

l Iron ore exports in 1998-99 were 146 million tonnes, earning more than $3.5 billion.

l WA’s output of nearly 52 million carats of diamonds in 1999 were valued at $633 million.

l Grain sales in 1998-99 approached $1.7 billion while livestock exports were $300 million.

For a state of less than two million people – a tiny domestic market by world standards – these six exporting sectors exceeded $11 billion.

But there are other important WA exporters such as exports of horticultural products, industrial salt, nickel, and engineering and other professional services, and all need the global market to prosper.

Our political screamers also don’t realise globalisation has been with humanity for thousands of years.

The famous Silk Road that linked the eastern Mediterranean with the China was there to ensure goods from far and wide moved across borders.

Roman coinage has been found in South and South East Asia, suggesting the Roman Empire had commercial contacts with distant lands to its east.

Islamic traders for centuries were crucial in maintaining the spread of products between east and west.

Marco Polo followed, sparking the imaginations of thousands of succeeding traders. After him came Europe’s great exploration age and others blazed the trail, spreading New World products – corn and potatoes for instance – to the Old World and vice versa.

The great bard of Stratford, Bill Shakespeare, wrote about merchants, including one from Venice.

Nor is international investment a new-fangled practice as the activities of the famous Hanseatic League, founded in the 1300s, shows with its spreading of commodities and new production techniques across Europe.

The way our latest crop of political yellers behaved at the Crown Casino, you would think the WEF delegates were devising a new horrific biological bomb to destroy humanity, so had to be stopped at all costs.

Nothing could be further from the truth. They were only having a talk-fest about age-old activities called commerce and trade.

Societies that do not trade and do not encourage investing far and wide, simply stagnate, becoming places not even worth dying in.

It’s sobering to realise that Australia makes up less than 1 per cent of world output – in other words, we count for very little, so we need the world more than it needs us.

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