Kenneth Graham, “The Modest Member must not give up,” The Bulletin, December 17, 1977, p. 112.
Bert Kelly is almost a legend. He is one of those rare politicians who actually manages to see the importance of consistent, long-term policies over immediate party advantage.
Unfortunately, Bert Kelly has been the casualty of electoral redistribution. In a contest for pre-selection with the chairman of the Liberal-Country Party Rural Committee, Geoff O’Halloran Giles, he lost.
Hopefully, Kelly’s “Modest Member” column will continue in the Australian Financial Review and the various weekly farm newspapers which carried it on a syndicated basis.
Apart from being a farmer, Bert has the rare distinction of combining his job with a sense of economic rationality.
His views were not always shared by senior Liberal Party ministers, and in particular he was critical of the Prime Minister’s Luddite approach to industrial development.
Contrary to the many views expressed, Bert Kelly saw that planning for manufacturing industry could not take place on the assumption that continually adding more tariff protection would solve industry’s problems.
The closer-to-free trade view which Kelly adopted (and which was supported by a number of Liberal-Country Party backbenchers and a large proportion of the parliamentary Australian Labor Party) found considerable sympathy among the farm organisations.
The major rural export industries still rely heavily on open, industrial markers for the disposal of their products. There is no realistic possibility of working on a cost-plus basis as does much of Australian manufacturing industry.
Rural exports are still earning more of Australia’s foreign exchange than either the mineral or manufacturing export sectors. The proportions are roughly rural industry 45 per cent, mining industry 23 per cent and manufacturing 26 per cent, with other groups making up the balance.
It is not surprising that the major rural industry organisations were greatly concerned when the Australian Confederation of Apparel Manufacturers launched into an attack on Bert Kelly and the policies he espoused during the last week of the Federal election campaign.
The ACAM director, Ray Aitchison, has the distinction of being the only guest speaker at the National Rural Press Club in Canberra who received strong criticism as a vote of thanks, and who saw the rural Press and a number of its national daily associates appalled at the economic nonsense spewed out in the guise of industry policy.
Primary industry is particularly sore about the ACAM because it represents the best example of Australia’s very high levels of tariff protection. In many cases textile factories were established in country towns. They attracted male and female labour away from farms by offering to pay over-award wages. When they were subjected to the pressures of imports and cheaper goods, the textile factories wilted or went cap-in-hand to the Australian Government for yet more protection.
The pressures from the textile industry had direct impact on inflation. Because of the high proportion of female labour and the necessity to pay high wages to attract people into what are often appalling working conditions, the industry added to the wages push of the 1974-75 period.
At the same time the high level of tariff protection applying to the industry also meant that a broad range of goods was being sold at higher-than-necessary prices, and this in turn added to the inflationary process.
On the international trade side, primary producers are now concerned that the insular attitude of the ACAM will jeopardise the trade of $600 million to ASEAN countries. Agricultural trade to this area is as valuable to Australia’s primary industries as is the trade to the EEC.
If a government is prepared to sacrifice that value of exports and the countless jobs which are dependent on it for the spurious argument that the textile industry demands priority, the long-term effect could demand incredible sums of money for further rural adjustment.
There is substantial evidence to suggest that in spite of the increasing protection given to the textile industry in Australia:
- The number of people employed is continuing to decline because the demand is flagging for Australia’s textile production.
- The rate of technological change has not been accelerated, and the industry, with some 930 firms, is still organised largely on the basis of a 19th century workhouse.
- It is not only the imports from ASEAN and other low labour-cost countries which the Australian textile industry is unable to compete against, but also those from highly industrialised countries such as the United States. The classic example is the effective protection of 100 per cent of bedsheeting imported from the U.S. which cannot be satisfactorily produced in Australia.
- Larger companies operating in the field have used the combination of tariffs and import quotas to set up a lucrative market for import quotas and the firms crying out for protection are often the ones which hold the import quotas.
Rural industry is all the more jaundiced about the Australian textile industry because it has been receiving high, in fact excessive, levels of protection since 1929 when it was granted infant industry status.
There has been no serious attempt on the part of the industry to countenance structural adjustment. The increasing tariff and quota protection has isolated the industry more and more from the market forces upon which it is so allegedly dependent.
The situation would quickly be brought to a head if the Australian Government agreed to the recommendation offered in the Industries Assistance Commission report on the Australian Ball Bearing industry that instead of increasing tariff protection, the industry be paid a subsidy equivalent to the protection requested. If this is accepted, it would show the taxpayer the actual cost of tariff protection and would bring the whole issue under public scrutiny at budget time.
From a recent poll taken among a broad cross-section of leaders of industry, trade unions and other organisations, it is clear that over 80 per cent of people want tariff reform and the arguments which are put forward by ACAM and the like are those of a small but very vocal minority.
While Bert Kelly may have retired from parliament, primary producers are hoping like hell that he will not give up the cause. He is needed desperately at the moment.
- Bert Kelly on Journalism
- Move for a body of Modest Members
- Modest Members Association
- Bert Kelly's Maiden Parliamentary Speech
- Government Intervention
- 1976 Monday Conference transcript featuring Bert Kelly
- Petrol for Farmers
- Some Sacred Cows
- Experiences in Parliament
- Spending your Money
- Who needs literary licence?
- A touch of Fred's anarchy
- Supply and Demand
- Bert Kelly on Disaster Relief
- Bert Kelly Wants to Secede
- Under Labor, is working hard foolish?
- An Idiot's Guide to Interventionism
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Side Benefits Argument for Government
- Bert Kelly gets his head around big-headed bird-brained politics
- First Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Second Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Third Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Fourth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Fifth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Sixth Modest Member (Bert Kelly) AFR Column
- Bert Kelly on the 2011 Budget and Australia's Pathetic Journalists and Politicians
- Bert Kelly, Bastard or Simple Sod?
- Liberal Backbencher Hits Govt. Over Import Restrictions
- Bert Kelly feels a dam coming on at each election
- Bert Kelly Enters Parliament
- Why take in one another's washing?
- Bert Kelly breaks the law, disrespects government and enjoys it
- Gillard's galley-powered waterskiing
- Can price control really work?
- Should we put up with socialism?
- We're quick to get sick of socialism
- Time the protection racket ended
- Can't pull the wool over Farmer Fred
- People not Politics
- Bert Kelly admits he should have had less faith in politicians
- Labor: a girl who couldn't say no
- Why leading businessmen carry black briefcases
- Ludwig von Mises on page 3 of AFR
- Mavis wants the Modest Member to dedicate his book to her
- Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
- Bert Kelly reviews The War Diaries of Weary Dunlop
- Bert Kelly reviews We Were There
- Tariffs get the fork-tongue treatment
- Bert Kelly reduces government to its absurdities
- Politician sacrifices his ... honesty
- It's all a matter of principle
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Infant Industry Argument
- Bert Kelly Untangles Tariff Torment
- Bert Kelly resorts to prayer
- Eccles keeps our nose hard down on the tariff grindstone
- "Don't you believe in protecting us against imports from cheap labour countries?"
- Even if lucky, we needn't be stupid
- Great "freedom of choice" mystery
- Small government's growth problem
- Tariffs Introduced
- More About Tariffs
- Sacred cow kicker into print
- Modest Member must not give up
- Traditional Wheat Farming is Our Birthright and Heritage and Must be Protected!
- Bert Kelly brilliantly defends "theoretical academics"
- The Society of Modest Members
- John Hyde's illogical, soft, complicated, unfocussed and unsuccessful attempt to communicate why he defends markets
- Modesty ablaze
- Case for ministers staying home
- The unusual self-evident simplicity of the Modest Members Society
- Animal lib the new scourge of the bush
- The Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Krill
- Repeal economic laws, force people to buy new cars and enforce tariffs against overseas tennis players
- Thoughts on how to kill dinosaurs
- Let's try the chill winds
- Taking the Right's road
- Bert Kelly: "I did not try often or hard enough"
- Bert Kelly "lacked ... guts and wisdom"
- A look at life without tariffs
- The Gospel according to Bert
- Tiny note on Bert Kelly's column in The Bulletin in 1985
- Why costs can't be guaranteed
- Hitting out with a halo
- Paying farmers not to grow crops will save on subsidies, revenge tariffs, etc
- "The Modest Farmer joins us" | "How The Modest Farmer came to be"
- Bert Kelly Destroys the Freeloading Justifies Government Argument
- Government Intervention
- Bigger Cake = Bigger Slices
- Bert Kelly on the Political Process
- Charabanc: Part 1
- Charabanc: Part 2
- Charabanc: Part 3
- Relationships with the Liberal Party
- Tariffs = High Prices + World War
- Bert Kelly's Family History
- Bert Kelly's Pre-Parliament Life
- Why Bert Kelly was not even more publicly outspoken
- WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
- How to stand aside when it's time to be counted
- How the Modest Member went back to being a Modest Farmer
- My pearls of wisdom were dull beyond belief
- Bert Kelly on Political Football
- Ross Gittins Wins Bert Kelly Award
- Interesting 1964 Bert Kelly speech: he says he is not a free trader and that he supports protection!
- This is the wall the Right built
- Has Santa socked it to car makers?
- Is the Budget a cargo cult?
- Will we end up subsidising one another?
- Do we want our money to fly?
- Can a bear be sure of a feed?
- How to impress your MP -
- The time for being nice to our MPs has gone ...
- Don't feel sorry for him -
hang on to his ear
- Trade wars can easily end up on a battlefield
- Tariffs Create Unemployment
- Bert Kelly recommends Ayn Rand
- Bert Kelly's Satirical Prophecy: Minister for Meteorology (tick) and High Protectionist Policies to Result in War Yet Again (?)
- Bert Kelly in 1972 on Foreign Ownership of Australian Farmland and Warren Truss, Barnaby Joyce and Bill Heffernan in 2012
- Parliament a place for pragmatists
- Of Sugar Wells and Think-Tanks
- Bert Kelly: "I must take some of the blame"
- A Modest Farmer looks at the Problems of Structural Change
- Government Fails Spectacularly
- Know your proper place if you want the quiet life
- Bert Kelly on political speech writers
- Perish the thawed!
- Modest Farmer sees his ideas take hold
- Max Newton: Maverick in Exile
- Why no-one nails the Big Green Lie
- A case for ministerial inertia
- Why politicians don't like the truth
- Ominous dark clouds are gathering
- Better to be popular than right
- Crying in the wilderness
- Ivory tower needs thumping
- Bert Kelly asks, "How can you believe in free enterprise and government intervention at the same time?"
- Rural Problems
- Unholy state of taxation
- Boring economics worth a smile