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9 July 1999. Thought for the Week: "As night does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness."
William O. Douglas, US Supreme Court Justice
THE LEGEND OF TIM FISCHER
by David Thompson
The political record of Mr. Fischer - particularly in the Federal Parliament - is a dismal one. He has presided over the disintegration of the National Party, which is a direct reflection of the increasing irrelevance of the National Party to its constituency - rural Australia. The Nationals have refused to stand firmly for rural interests when they have been in a position to do so, slavishly following the Liberal Party lead. Fischer and his colleagues have done little - if anything - to address the depopulation of rural Australia, let alone reverse it. They have done little to defend the interests of the farming family, and have steadfastly refused to consider any alternative financial policies that might have provided essential relief to farmers.
As Minister for Trade, Mr. Fischer's slavish commitment to "free trade" has further committed Australia to the global market, and seen the erosion of the last of Australia's manufacturing industries. He has also contributed to the economic and political regionalisation of Australia, in helping to construct an Asia-Pacific economic bloc. This trading bloc will develop into a regional political structure that could absorb Australia's political sovereignty, as "Europe" is absorbing Britain's.
On other issues, Fischer's record is
equally disastrous. Our "Fischer file" is littered with correspondence
from him deriding the issue of financial reform. Over the
years, supporters have presented the overwhelming evidence
of the basic banking reality of the creation of credit. His
blunt refusal to acknowledge this reality hints at an invincible
stupidity. It also hints at a well-developed talent for political
survival. He has maintained an anti-League attitude when challenged
by supporters on his denigration of the League. To one such
challenger in 1995 he wrote "I understand that many supporters
of the League of Rights are not themselves racists, however
I believe all Members of Parliament must be very cautious
about with whom they associate."
Irrespective of his commitment to free speech, Fischer was scathing about former ALP MP Graeme Campbell appearing on a League platform. "Both sides of politics are opposed to the racist views held by the League of Rights, and politicians have no place in attending or addressing League meetings."
Mr. Fischer's opposition to the proposal
for initiative and referendum puzzled many National Party
supporters. He obviously adheres to the "mandate" philosophy
of government, rather than any suggestion that representative
government means consulting electors. The betrayal that will
perhaps be longest and most deeply felt by rural people, was
that concerning firearms. Fischer simply refused to represent
the National Party constituency on this issue, and lamely
followed John Howard's insistence on punitive firearms measures.
RISING HIGHER AND HIGHER
by Jeremy Lee
So each 60 minutes - 24 hours a day -
we have a trade loss of about $2 million, and a further outflow
of about $2.5 million an hour in interest and dividends to
foreigners. To put it another way, each morning at breakfast
every living Australian is up for $6 to cover the Current
Account Deficit and the outflow of dollars to foreign lenders
and investors - 365 days a year. If the government-of-the-day
actually charged us this way, there'd be a revolution in a
week, a few political heads would roll, and the matter would
be dealt with. So they just stick it on the foreign debt and
hope you won't notice.
If you think Australia's figures bad, consider New Zealand. The Ashburton Guardian (NZ, 15/6/99) reported: "New Zealand's overseas debt increased $2.4 billion to $102 billion - or 103.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product - in the year ending March 31, 1999. That was approximately in line with market expectations. "Statistics New Zealand said $1.8 billion of the increase came from currency depreciation. "'This 2.4 percent rise reflects relative stability after the 25 percent rise between March 31, 1997 and March 31, 1998,' Government Statistician Len Cook said..."
With less than a quarter of Australia's population, New Zealand is in an even worse mess.
BIGGEST LOSS IN HISTORY: BHPonce the icon of Australian industrial genius - has made a loss of $2.31 billion, which follows last year's loss of $1.47 billion. This is the first time in the Company's 114-year history that it has made a loss two years m a row. In the strange, Alice-in-Wonderland world of the stock market, BHP's shares rose slightly at the news!
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED COALITION
Just as it did over the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, a new, non-party single-issue coalition is quickly developing over the issue of genetically engineered seeds and foodstuffs. At issue once again is freedom of choice. Should consumers have the right to know whether food and seeds have been genetically engineered?
In July 1998 Australian and New Zealand
Health Ministers set a standard to regulate the sale of genetically
engineered foodstuffs, which came into effect on May 13th,
1999. However, because companies had not complied with this
deadline, ministerial approval was given to place 20 genetically
engineered varieties of six food crops - soybeans, corn, canola,
cottonseed, potatoes and sugarbeet - onto our tables. These
foods have not yet been assessed by the Australian and New
Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) for their safety to human health,
and are not labelled as genetically engineered.
Now, with the main emphasis from the Australian Gene Ethics Network, an offshoot of the Australian Conservation Foundation, an alliance is forming which already includes the AMA, the Public Health Association and the Organics Federation, plus about 4,000 individuals round Australia. Action is needed by August 5th, when Health Ministers decide whether labelling of genetically engineered products is necessary.
The Food Authority says no labels are needed.
With enough letters and submissions this decision can be overturned. Those requiring more information should contact Bob Phelps, Australian GeneEthics Network, 350 Gore Street, Fitzroy, Vic., 3065, Phone: (03) 9416 2222, Fax: (03) 9416 0767, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Home Page: www.zero.com.au/agen
Behind the push for genetically-engineered foodstuffs are the multinational giants set to make huge profits from their development of these products - and for the development of patented seeds that won't reproduce: Monsanto, Du Pont Pioneer, AgrEvo, Rhone Poulenc. Original research in genetic engineering was pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation.
WAKE-UP TO NATIONAL FARMERS' FEDERATION
Rural papers in Queensland and New South Wales have carried front-page articles telling of major dissatisfaction with the NFF - the body that has claimed for years to speak for farmers without discussion. The Land (24/6/99) described how there was major dissatisfaction expressed by the smaller States, who complained of "heavy-handed" leadership and dominance from the power brokers in NSW and Victoria. Among issues, which brought the conflict to a head, was the sudden resignation of former National Australia Bank chief Nobby Clarke, who has been Chairman of the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund.
The Land said: "... Nobody - including Mr. Clarke - will reveal the reasons for his departure which occurred during the last AFFF trustees meeting but it has been claimed he was angered by NFF attempts to influence the AFFF's staffing arrangements. Farmers have never been allowed to know how much money is in the Fighting Fund, which has been in the keeping of Mr. Clarke ever since the Fund was launched in 1985 by former NFF Director Ian MacLachlan. The fact that farmers donated the money apparently made no difference!
The NFF has never spoken for family farmers, who have gone to the wall in their tens of thousands in the 14 years since the Fund was set up. It has simply moved into the establishment, becoming a rural echo for the globalism that has ruined terms of trade for the man on the land. The NFF's legacy can be seen in the current devastation of rural Australia. We predict the issue of genetic engineering will be an issue to really test the NFF. Will free trade and global markets overcome all other issues in considering the rights of consumers to have free choice? We wouldn't put our money on the NFF.
Y2K - ANOTHER VIEW
Since March there has been an increasing amount of reassurance from government spokesmen that Australia is well prepared for Y2K - right up there with the leading nations. Over the last couple of weeks we have noticed an unmistakable air of anxiety in some communications. A South Australian reader has sent us a circular by the Bank of South Australia to all customers.
After pointing out: "It is NOT just a
computer problem. There is NO quick fix." - the circular continued
by quoting Lou Morris, Managing Director of the Bank: "The
Year 2000 problem is one of the most serious business-wide
risk issues a company will ever face."
Obviously someone does not believe the political watchman's witching-hour call - "Past 2000 - and all's well!"
BOAT PEOPLE AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS
Following the spate of illegal boat-people arriving on Australia's shores - and not just the northern coast - the Federal Government has allocated an extra $124 million to surveillance. That's just two-and-a-half days' blowout in the Current Account deficit! The move is very late. Already we have 51,000 illegal immigrants in Australia - more than the 50,000 full-time personnel in the combined Defence Forces Australia is aiming for.
A Feature Article in The Weekend
Australian (26/6/99) said: "Swelling the ranks of the
overstayers is the unknowable number of boat people who have
slipped through the holes in our coastal surveillance net.
This year there have been the most boat landings since the
flood of Vietnamese fleeing communism in the late 1970s. About
770 boat people have been intercepted this financial year.
Another 2,100 people have been caught at airports...
It would pay the Government to re-examine the system of voluntary surveillance set up during world War II- where people thoroughly conversant with remote conditions - including many Aborigines - were linked in a semi-informal surveillance team which was highly effective in Australia's north. The spirit of the volunteer is something that needs restoration across Australia.
FURTHER WARNINGS ON "THE BUBBLE"The Bulletin's Editor in Chief, Max Walsh (6/7/99) has again expressed his belief that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan cannot postpone the bursting of the "bubble" forever. There has been a wild surge of relief on Wall Street that the Greenspan interest-rate increase has only been marginal. Walsh's comment: "...Alan Greenspan wants to deflate the bubble. Balloons deflate; bubbles burst."
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