The people of Australia know, as a fact, that we have an open, competitive economy; that our prosperity depends on selling stuff to other countries. First and foremost, we are a trading nation.
We even have a grudging acceptance that we benefit from importing cheap stuff from other countries. In America, the situation is different and it has enabled an anti-globalisation mindset to take hold. They regard imports as ‘bad’ and they believe, with some validity, that they have lost a lot of jobs to China and now to other countries. The jobs that they lost were in manufacturing which is still a significant part of the American economy, whereas in Australia it hasn’t been significant for decades. So, workers in Australia don’t necessarily say that they lost jobs to China whereas in the US they genuinely did.
Both of the major political parties in Australia, from the Hawke and Howard governments onwards, have shared a high level of bipartisanship on creating an open, competitive economy and that remains today.
Both of the major political parties in Australia, from the Hawke and Howard governments onwards, have shared a high level of bipartisanship on creating an open, competitive economy and that remains today. Occasionally there might be the emergence of some type of ‘Buy Australian’ push, like Bill Shorten did recently, but it’s really just a change in rhetoric and is not accompanied by a single policy change. Malcolm Turnbull will do the same thing, highlighting the need to employ Australians and talking tough at a press conference on 457 visas without much practical impact. From a policy point of view there is no suggestion of erecting tariff walls again. Not even the trade union movement is suggesting revisiting tariffs whereas in the US there’s a move to renegotiate NAFTA and they’ve withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership.
Even on the issue of overseas investment, the Australian community is more open than some imagine. Australians believe that there should be overseas investment in new processes, products and job creating initiatives.
In Australia, the imagery of the economy after the Second World War was that we didn’t, at the time, have much confidence. We were a small economy with a small population, which, of course, led to expansive migration policies, particularly from Southern Europe, in order to provide workers for our factories and build our infrastructure. We became inward looking with protection through high tariffs until the Hawke government, followed by successive governments, reduced tariffs to the point where they are now either zero or close to zero across the board. Thankfully the tariff debate in Australia is over … it’s just not part of our political discourse.
Even on the issue of overseas investment, the Australian community is more open than some imagine. Australians believe that there should be overseas investment in new processes, products and job creating initiatives. For the most part Australians are not opposed to this. International funding of the privatisation of local assets is frowned upon but building a new job-creating resort or vitally important infrastructure with overseas money is supported.
In Australia, no one, except One Nation, is running the type of economic nationalist line that we’re seeing in the US and parts of Europe, because both parties, especially the experienced politicians, know that globalisation has been, and will continue to be, good for the Australian community.