Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:02 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 08 Apr 2020 | 23:02 | SYDNEY

Labor and free trade


Sam Roggeveen


2 June 2009 12:11

We've witnessed an interesting little study in internal Labor Party politicking over the last few days, with several trade-related issues emerging. For mine, Trade Minister Simon Crean is on the side of the angels; he released a report yesterday which found that trade liberalisation has made Australians measurably wealthier over the last twenty years. 

It's an example of the tactic Bill Carmichael has advocated on this blog, which is that big gains in free trade negotiations can only be made if domestic audiences are first convinced of the benefits of liberalisation.

Also a force for good, though he hasn't received much media attention, is ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr, who has intervened in the book importation debate.

But look what these guys are up against: the SMH reported yesterday on rising protectionist sentiment in the union movement. We've also noted on this blog the many and varied 'soft protectionist' measures used by this Government (and the last). And Industry Minister Kim Carr is crowing that Holden will not be affected by GM's bankruptcy because 'the hard work has been done', which presumably is at least in part a reference to the Government's $6.2 billion package for the automotive industry, announced last November.

UPDATE: To conclude the throught, there's little doubt in my mind that Prime Minister Rudd's instincts are for free trade, but as Peter Hartcher's highly readable account of Rudd's rise and Howard's fall attests, Kim Carr brokered the leadership union between Rudd and Julia Gillard that toppled Kim Beazley's leadership. Rudd is indebted to Carr, so Carr's 'soft protectionist' sentiment will continue to have a voice in Government.

Photo by Flickr user Artisan Shooting, used under a Creative Commons license.