I recently attended the Australia-China forum in Beijing and was a part of a breakfast panel discussing various political issues. We covered off the Asian Century White Paper and optimism in Australian politics during the session. The audio from the panel is available below.
I spoke in parliament yesterday about supermarket competition, the importance of standing on the side of consumers, and why I’m proud to be a practitioner of the ‘dismal science’.
Matter of Public Importance, 15 August 2012
I rise to speak on this matter of public importance relating to supermarket competition, with a particular focus on the importance of maintaining lower prices for consumers. Much of Australia’s economic history in the post-war decades is characterised by a somewhat unholy alliance across the major parties to protect producer interests at the expense of consumer interests. So much of the ‘protection all-round’ that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s meant that Australians paid high prices and that there was less foreign investment. We were less exposed to trade. Our firms were less competitive and our consumers suffered for that. One of the great achievements of the last generation of economic policy makers, thanks to people on both sides of the House, is that we have put the consumer first.
I spoke in parliament yesterday about getting Australians a better deal on Kindle books.
Amazon.com’s Kindle Pricing Policies
House of Representatives, 28 June 2012
Access to many and affordable books is an important component of a civilised society. It is through books that children are exposed to new ideas and it is through books that many of us as adults broaden our experience. Indeed, one of the last things I wrote while as an academic was a survey of the books that federal parliamentarians were then reading which turned into an article with my friend Macgregor Duncan. Reading opens new worlds and makes us better people. It is in that vein that I urge the House to place pressure on Amazon.com to provide better and cheaper access to books through the Amazon Kindle.
In the SMH News Review section today, I’ve done ‘The Essay’ – a shorter version of my McKell Institute speech.
Dumb Luck – Smart Future, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 June 2012
In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, sit the Galapagos Islands. Although they straddle the equator, the pattern of ocean currents has a cooling effect, making them an ideal breeding ground.
The islands are volcanic – so all animal life on the Galapagos Islands came originally by flying or floating nearly 1000 kilometres from Ecuador. And yet for the species that survived, life on the Galapagos Islands was perfect. Migrating birds lucky enough to be blown off course found an environment with few natural predators. Tortoises that floated here found beaches perfectly suited to their breeding environments. Life flourished.
Looking back across Australian economic history, I am often struck by the extent to which luck has similarly played a part in our success. Politicians are sometimes reluctant to talk about luck – preferring to focus on the things we can control than those we can’t. But I think it’s still worth talking about the role that fortune has played, if only to help understand what preparations we should be making. If we don’t do that, we’re like the Galapagos tortoise, which must have thought itself the luckiest species on earth, until British sailors discovered the islands in the late-eighteenth century, and ate them in their thousands.
In today’s Drum, I have an op-ed with Senator Lisa Singh.
Malaysia Trade Deal: In Praise of Openness, The Drum, 29 May 2012
The rise of Asia is often seen as the rise of Asia’s big nations, like India and China. But even taking these two giants out of the equation, Asia’s share of middle class consumption is expected to outstrip that of the United States and the European Union combined by the middle of this century. A growing Asian middle class means a massive increase in consumption and spending on imported goods and services. Those goods and services include the kind of things that Australians produce and expect: a wide range of yummy food; high-quality education; and elaborately transformed manufactures.
As well as providing a market for our exports, the rise of Asia has also benefited Australian consumers. The past 20 years have seen real prices for imported furniture, handbags, clothes, shoes and medical products roughly halved. Real prices of computers, telephones and other electrical goods have fallen by about two-thirds.
What Do We Eat After the Low-Hanging Fruit? A Brief Economic History of Australia, With Some Lessons for the Future
I spoke today at the McKell Institute in Sydney on Australian economic history, with some ideas for the future. The speech is below.
What Do We Eat After the Low-Hanging Fruit? A Brief Economic History of Australia, With Some Lessons for the Future*
18 May 2012
McKell Institute, Sydney
In the Pacific Ocean, off the west coast of South America, sit the Galapagos Islands. Although they straddle the equator, the pattern of ocean currents have a cooling effect, making them an ideal breeding ground for tortoises, iguanas, penguins, finches, albatrosses, gulls, and pelicans.
Because the islands are volcanic, what’s striking about animal life on the Galapagos Islands is that all of it came originally by flying or floating nearly 1000 kilometres from Ecuador. And yet for the species that survived, life on the Galapagos Islands was perfect. Migrating birds lucky enough to be blown off course found an environment with few natural predators. Tortoises that floated here found beaches perfectly suited to their breeding environments. Life flourished.
Looking back across Australian economic history, I am often struck by the extent to which luck has similarly played a part in our success. Politicians are sometimes reluctant to talk about luck – preferring to focus on the things we can control than those we can’t. It is true that ‘chance favours the prepared mind’. But I think it’s still worth talking about the role that luck has played, if only to help understand what preparations we should be making. If we don’t do that, we’re like the Galapagos tortoise, which must have thought itself the luckiest species on earth, until British sailors discovered the islands in the late-eighteenth century, and ate them in their thousands.
Senator Lisa Singh and I have an opinion piece in today’s Canberra Times on the implications of the rise of Asia for Australia. The full text is over the fold. It’s based on our submission to Ken Henry’s Asian Century white paper.
The Asian Century Beckons, Canberra Times, 25 April 2012
In the 21st century, we can confidently predict two trends. First, Australia will become more ethnically diverse. And second, we will become more enmeshed with Asia. The next generation of Australians will be more likely to have been born in Asia, travelled to Asia, worked in Asia, or married someone from Asia.
I spoke in parliament yesterday about trade liberalisation and anti-dumping.
Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2011
28 February 2012
It is my pleasure to rise to address the Customs Amendment (Anti-dumping Improvements) Bill (No. 2) 2011, a piece of trade legislation that sits proudly in a Labor legacy of trade reform. The opening up of Australian markets which has been so much to the benefit of Australia’s workers and consumers is fundamentally a Labor story. It was Gough Whitlam in 1973 who first cut tariffs, and then Bob Hawke and Paul Keating who continued through the tariff cuts. They did so with a view that open markets would be good for Australia, but that that process of dropping the tariff walls would entail transition costs. So they put in place a car industry plan and TCF plan, recognising that industry would need time to adjust. Those changes have been enormously beneficial for Australian families. They have put on average $3,900 per annum into the pockets of Australian households according to a report by the Centre for International Economics. Open markets have also meant that Australian industry has become more competitive. That has meant more export jobs. It has meant more opportunities for Australian workers.
The last parliamentary fortnight wrapped up with a debate over a motion moved by the Liberal Party about Australia’s ‘forgotten families’. I spoke in the debate, and used it as a chance to discuss the government’s achievements and agenda, and contrast them with the relentless negativity of the Opposition Leader.
My AFR op-ed today looks at the benefits that Australia gains from playing by global trade rules.
Apple Ruling Makes Sense, Australian Financial Review, 23 August 2011
In 1995, Japan accepted imported rice for the first time. A nation whose politicians had sometimes claimed that foreign rice was unfit for Japanese consumption yielded – thanks to a World Trade Organization deal. Within a few years, Australian rice exports to Japan were worth over $200 million.
Yet today, the Liberal and National parties are calling for Australia to thumb its nose at the WTO’s finding that our apple quarantine system was not based on solid science. Rather than allowing New Zealand apple imports, the Coalition would prefer to see Australia start a trade war.
I spoke in parliament last week about the benefits of free trade to Australian consumers and businesses, and the legacy of the great Labor Senator Peter Cook.
23 June 2011
I rise to discuss the benefits of free trade to the Australian economy and the Australian consumer. Estimates from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade show that households have benefited by $3,900 per annum as a result of the reductions in tariffs and the elimination of export quotas over recent decades. A large part of that boost has been in the form of prices being lower for consumers than they would otherwise have been in the presence of tariffs. The real prices of heavily protected products have fallen sharply. Boys’ footwear has fallen by 50 per cent, prices of major household appliances have fallen by 47 per cent and prices of automobiles have fallen by 37 per cent. One in five Australians is now employed as a result of exports and imports. Australians working in export industries are paid 60 per cent more than other working Australians.
I spoke in parliament last night on the issue of live animal exports.
Live Animal Exports, 14 June 2011
The image of our stock men and women is deeply etched on the national psyche: the laconic stockmen rocking easily in the saddle, cajoling and guiding the herd; the alert and agile stockman darting through the bush, bringing a bolter back or displaying campdrafting skills at the local rodeo.
I spoke in Parliament yesterday on reforming the World Bank.
I gave my first speech to parliament today. The full text is below.
Thank you to all those who came along to hear it.
Here’s the full text of the speech I gave on trade at the recent GAP National Economic Review conference.
I’m speaking in Sydney tomorrow at the NSW Parliament House. The event is the National Economic Review 2010, being organised by Global Access Partners. I’ll be speaking on international trade – why Australia has benefited from taking rocks out of our harbours, and what the future might hold.