Who in their right minds would be a producer of anything in Australia? Leave aside the raw materials, where nature has made this country a major player in oligopolies able to influence prices, and the game is getting just too hard. Variable exchange rates — with fluctuations largely the result of the dominance in our economy of those lucky oligopolists — have surely just made it impossible to make anything with any certainty of profitability.
When the Aussie dollar goes from 60 cents to the $US to over 90 cents while the Chinese yuan stays remarkably stable you can forget all about a level playing field. Another year or two of this and there will not be a product except unprocessed mineral ores, that are not available anywhere else, that is not cheaper to import rather than make here. Believe me, this free market has become a truly frightening thing.
Now don’t misunderstand me. For the major part of my 45 years in Canberra I have been writing against the cost to ordinary Australians of the push by vested interests towards protectionism by which they mean that the country owes them a living whatever their level of efficiency. There was a period when I was denounced as a Japanese spy for daring to help prepare cases for the Japanese External Trade Relations Organisation to present to the old Tariff Board arguing for lower tariff protection.
But supposedly free markets, especially financial markets, have entirely changed the game. Nowadays as the mining industry booms and the exchange rate strengthens the rest of the economy — apart from the financial leaches — suffers. Much more of this and we really will end up just as the world’s quarry with most people on a form of welfare paid for out of profits on the mining industry.