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Viv Forbes, Our Sacred Land & Other Essays (first published by Business Queensland and Common Sense in 1995), issue no. 106.About the Author»

When Yul Brynner was dying of lung cancer, the WA government decided to feature Brynner in an anti-smoking ad as part of their Quit Campaign. Alas, it could not be screened because that would breach the foreign content rules of the ABT (Actor’s Benefits Tribunal).

An editorial of the West Australian summed it up better than I can:

Although the advertisement exceeds the 20% foreign content limit for paid commercials, the late Mr Brynner could hardly be accused of putting Australian actors out of work. He was not exactly acting when he made the advertisement, nor was he playing a role that other actors would want to emulate.

In another such incident, Actor’s Equity persuaded a federal Court to withhold visas from the pop group The Platters, “to protect the jobs of its members”.

Here in Queensland, the ever vigilant Actors’ Equity stopped Sesame Street’s Big Bird from appearing at a free concert at the Royal Children’s Hospital because the foreign actor did not have the requisite three local support acts. Three local stooges were roped in and the show went on.

Down in Wonderland, the ABT banned a TV ad which used Star Wars characters to encourage parents to have their children immunised because “the ad was not made in Australia”.

Another ABT rule says that Australian film crews must “participate” in overseas film shoots where more than 20% of a commercial comprises footage of foreign origin. To comply with this rule, some agencies resorted to “Ghost Crewing” where Australian crews were flown to the home city of the overseas shoot, but they didn’t do any filming — they went sight seeing and then flew home again.

Hog-tied by all these stupid rules, Kerry Packer’s PBL Media group moved its TV and film production to the US because “unions consistently blocks their attempts to use overseas talent”.

We can picture the logical end to this Aussie Actors’ Protection Racket — classical music without Beethoven, Country and Western without Johnny Cash, rock and roll without Elvis and schools were foreign works by people like Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Einstein, Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Confucius and St Paul are banned.

Can you imagine a typical TV day — one long yawn of re-runs of Neighbours, earnest documentaries by the Australian Conservation Foundation, tributes to Patrick White, Quit Ads, live parliamentary broadcasts and George Negus interviewing Ita Buttrose, or vice versa. (And, of course, the never ending cricket.)

Politicians are forever trying to foist mediocre products on unsuspecting consumers through all sorts of local content rules and subsidies. Some just rely on costly “Buy Australian” jingles designed to appeal to the patriotism, nationalism, racism and jingoism lurking in dark corners of most minds. (Surely such attempts to stir up racial hatred and discrimination are illegal under some act somewhere?)

While one bunch of politicians boasts about reducing tariffs to allow greater choice and lower costs to Australian consumers, another lot is quietly erecting local content rules, offset schemes, design rules and labelling barriers, all armed at keeping foreign goods out, or making them more expensive.

While federal enforcers are confining their attacks to people with slanty eyes or funny accents, to provincial protectors the most dangerous foreigners are those who love across state boundaries.

One of the chief reasons for federation was to protect the freedom to trade between states. However, in actions which seems clearly unconstitutional, all states have employed both open and underhand tactic to assist their local buddies in business and the unions against interstate competition.

Ten years ago, Nick Greiner estimated that these State Preference Schemes were costing Australian taxpayers $350 million per year.

Most states confined their interference with sound purchasing policy to state government departments and authorities. In Victoria, however, John Cain set up the “Industrial Supplies Office” to monitor the procurement policies of major private sector purchases, with a view to “encouraging” them to use local suppliers.

In assessing government contracts, Queensland added a 20% penalty to prices submitted by foreign companies and 15% penalty for out-of-staters or Kiwis. An additional rule was then introduced in which Queensland companies tendering for State Government contracts had the right to re-submit their tenders after the closing date. (If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.) Mr Gunn assured Queenslanders that this policy “was in line with business practices in other states”.

(At the same time, most state bureaucrats insist on Quality Assurance Certification Procedures so complex and costly that many small local firms can’t be bothered trying to qualify for state supply contracts.)

The federal government has already spent $15M trying to convince canny consumers to forget quality, price and service and look instead for the “Australian Made” label.

Other taxpayers are funding schemes like “We Make it Great in the Sunshine State”. Where does it all end? Buy Brisbane Made? Fernvale First? Buy Birdsville?

Not one new Australian job is created by these programs, and consumers who are conned by them have their standard of living reduced.

When the cost of imports rises, most consumers will balance their budget by either reducing their purchases of the dearer goods, or economising on other goods. Thus, every dollar spent on expensive local goods rather than cheap imports immediately reduces the quantity of goods available per consumer — i.e., reduces living standards.

Some consumers will maintain their living standards by dipping into savings. The “Buy Dear” campaign will thus reduce local investment funds and increase our reliance on foreign capital.

“Putting Australia first” will also destroy Australian jobs among exporters and those employed to distribute imports.

Exporters suffer via the exchange rate. Every barrier to imports reduces the pool of Australian dollars available to foreigners to buy Australian exports. The price of the Australian dollar will thus rise in the currency market and the revenue of exporters will tend to fall to match the reduced imports. In this way, jobs gained by Australian manufacturers will be lost by both exporters and importers.

And the taxes levied to support the bureaux of officials monitoring all the preference clauses, offsets rules, design regulations, labelling laws, quotas and bounties will destroy more jobs in the tax paying sector.

“Australia First” and “Buy Queensland” are protection rackets as destructive as tariffs, but much more underhanded.

The Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans and the Aussie Wharfies already constitute a hefty handicap for foreigners trying to get into the Australian market. If our factories and unions are still uncompetitive, let’s keep a flat 10% tariff on all imports, and abolish all the secret and costly trade barriers.

We have nothing to fear but higher living standards for all Australians (except for out-of-work bureaucrats).

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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Forbes has long been active in politics, economic education, business and the global warming debate, and was winner of the Australian Adam Smith Award “For outstanding services to the Free Society” in 1986.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5