Cartoon: Mit Nerraw.
Most of the old National Party stalwarts have grudgingly accepted the inevitable truth that the world is a big and competitive place, and that trade isolationism is counterproductive. A few like Bob Katter who were comforted at their mothers breasts with heroic tales of Artie Fadden, Black Jack McEwen, and a heavily regulated form of free enterprise, still think otherwise.
Back then, compulsory marketing boards were the order of the day, under the catch cry of orderly marketing. Agriculture and industry existed behind tariff barriers with subsidies to aid the uncompetitive to do the unnecessary. With the Country Party, subsequently National Party holding the balance of power, the whole of our rural production was controlled from Canberra and the state capitals under a form of agrarian socialism.
Bob’s party has featured here on a number of occasions, and now Paul Syvret has called them out in the Courier Mail:
To understand Katter, you have to realise that at his core he is pinker than the left wing of the Australian Labor Party.
His conservative tag is really only deserved in terms of social policy (remember the vow to walk "backwards from Bourke to Brisbane" if any gays were ever found in his electorate of Kennedy?) and environmental issues (Katter's Australia Party contends that the scientific case that carbon emissions are linked to global warming "is simply not sustainable"). (He is probably right on the second. – Ed.)
When it comes to trade, investment, industry policy and all matters economic, Katter is an unreconstructed agrarian socialist.
He advocates a level of industry protectionism not seen in Australia for decades. He opposes free trade agreements, supports the development of state-owned industries and posits that all imported food coming into Australia should not only be slugged with a 10 per cent duty but also carry labels warning the goods may be dangerous to your health. Seriously.
His latest home-spun piece of economic populism - which fits neatly into the usual Katter mould of offering simplistic cure-alls for complex problems - is a push to force the Reserve Bank to slash official cash rates to levels never before seen in Australia of between 1 per cent and 2 per cent to get us "in step" with the rest of the world, particularly Europe and the US. …
If the RBA didn't toe the line, Katter said over the weekend, board members would be removed individually or the entire bank "replaced with another body." In the same breath, he spectacularly claimed that: "I don't want to be advocating political involvement in the Reserve Bank ...” If threatening to sack the board unless they relinquish their independence doesn't amount to political interference, well, I'll join Bob in his backwards walk.
… A flood of very cheap money would likely fuel the mother of all bubbles. On the flip side, interest rates that low would also deal the nation's savers a negative return on their savings after allowing for even moderate inflation.
Also bear in mind that should Europe trigger another global catastrophe, the RBA's current policy setting of 4.25 per cent gives us huge scope to ease monetary policy rapidly. Countries like the US, Britain and Japan, with near zero rates, have basically had to resort to printing new money in an effort to stimulate their economies. …
If you're developing policy in some sort of parallel universe, though, I guess inconvenient truths don't apply. Welcome to Katter country.
Dec 20, 2011
Cartoon: Mit Nerraw.