I don’t blame the Chinese for being prudent and planning ahead for their own food security, but if this is in their best interests to buy our farms, then it can’t be in ours as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Barnaby Joyce who is now well-positioned to become Australia’s next Deputy Prime Minister, or at the very least a senior member of Cabinet.
Joyce represents the traditionally protectionist rural based National Party whose members have long liked to capitalise their gains and socialize their losses. Senator Joyce’s path to the House of Representatives yesterday was all but assured with the announcement by Tony Windsor, the long standing Independent member who Joyce was trailing in the polls in the seat of New England.
Joyce has campaigned relentlessly against Chinese investment in Australia, although he does not seem to have taken issue with other foreign countries such as the UK and US who are by far the largest investors in Australia.
He was sacked as opposition finance minister last year for comments such as this one:
Is the Australian Government buying up farmland in places like Japan or Korea? No
Jocye’s position could become a big issue as the Australian election campaign – the poll is on September 14 – gathers steam and a big problem for the opposition leader Tony Abbott once he almost certainly wins government.
But the Chinese “ threat” as elucidated by Joyce is xenophobic and economically illiterate. Percieved economic threats have long been part of the Australian psyche as we are a resource exporting, capital importing country an argument that appears too sophisticated for many in Australia. First the threat came from the British, after we threw off their yoke, the Americans – anti-American feeling in Australia was remarkably high while I was growing up in the 70s and 80s; Many though THEY were trying to take us over.
Witness the songs US Forces and Hercules from the band Midnight Oil ,famously fronted by our Education Minister Peter Garrett. Then it was the Japanese who were going to “buy” the country but it proved too big to be towed north.
Now it’s the Chinese, the threat compounded by the fact that they have a political system we see, rightly or wrongly, as an anathema to everything the country stands for.
Joyce’s shrillness was unfortunately echoes by Liberal leader Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister in-waiting when he was in Beijing last July.
It would rarely be in Australia’s national interest to allow a foreign government or its agencies to control an Australian business.
The Liberals lead by hard working Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson Julie Bishop have struggled to paper over this but Abbott has not recanted his position no matter how many times they say they welcome foreign investment.
Things for the coalition could take a turn for the worse if Kevin Rudd knocks off Julia Gillard this afternoon and returns to The Lodge. Rudd is China savvy and could exploit Joyce and Abbott to their disadvantage
But if Joyce becomes National leader he may take the traditional job that roles brings: Trade Minister.
This may well give Australian voters, who understand their hip pockets better than the politicians often do.something to think about .