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TRADE WITH CHINA
Fracas puts the focus on how dependent we are
The trade fracas with China is beginning to concentrate on our minds on just how dependent we have become on that country. First it was barley, coal, meat, now it is lobsters, timber and wine. What next?
For those angry at how China is weaponising trade to force Australia to become more subservient in its foreign and economic policies, there is something the ordinary citizen can do to express their disapproval. Simply use their dollar votes and boycott Chinese-made products. It is not hard to do. If one walks into your local Bunnings or Officeworks store just about everything is made in China. Even in the supermarket one can find biscuits, lollies and other foodstuff sourced from China.
At the height of the run on toilet paper, masks and cleanser, Chinese-made substitutes were shipped in, and there’s the rub about this whole local difficulty with China. We have become much too dependent on Chinese-made products and manufactures for our own good. It’s the same story with our exports – much too reliant on the one big market.
Alex Millmow, Fitzroy
It will be easy to assess our commitment
China is flexing its economic and diplomatic muscles and Australia is caught in a pincer operation. Burdening our wines with significant tariffs at the flick of a switch has left our wine export businesses crying unfair. Our government is claiming they are innocent and only pursuing the great values of democracy and freedom held by Australians, and China needs to be reminded of their approach to human rights.
Many in Australia would quickly recognise a degree of hypocrisy in Australia’s stand, given how we have treated our Indigenous people, other minorities and refugees.
The depth of the commitment of the Australian government will easily be assessed when China switches the wine trade back on. Will we stand by our principles and find more ideologically acceptable wine markets, or, as I suspect, just grab the cash and run, no questions asked? I can see the wry smiles on the Chinese diplomats’ faces already.
Following Donald Trump’s simplistic, bombastic wrecking-ball diplomacy has led us into this tit-for-tat exchange. Much more diplomatic skill will be required to extract us without loss of face. Hopefully a more realistic approach will eventuate balancing healthy trade with positive, constructive diplomacy.
Rob Ward, Lake Tyers Beach
Waiting for some policies
I agree with John Cain’s sentiment of telling China to nick off and bring manufacturing back to Australia (Letters, 30/11). Unfortunately I cannot see this government crafting the policies required to establish an alternative manufacturing sector for making and distributing these new Australian products. This is despite the pandemic providing a perfect opportunity to reset this one of many important sectors of the economy.
Scott Morrison won the last election without any policies, while Labor is still struggling to recover from putting forward a long-term plan. Why change a winning strategy?
Winning elections is the main game. Serving the people with long-term strategies and visions, not so much.
Peter Thomas, Pascoe Vale
This is a trade war not an expose of human rights
The headline ‘‘China’s new digital currency has caught the world napping’’ (Business, 28/11) gives us an insight into our present situation with China. The constant proselytising by our Prime Minister and other ministers about how we are not going to sacrifice our values as a nation in dealing with China is simply off the track.
The Chinese have asked for respect and as one of the oldest traders in the world they deserve it. To deny this is to misinterpret the situation. This is a trade war, not an expose of human rights in either country – we are selling products to the Chinese, not values. This misinterpretation by our government and the continuing, if nuanced, criticism of China is putting us as a nation not on the Silk Road but a dead-end track.
We must end this finger-pointing and stop the damage that it is causing to the producers of our country in such critical areas. Our national interest will suffer unless we adopt a realistic approach. We must show respect for the Chinese as trading partners and treat the situation for what it is: trade not values.
Patricia Parkinson, Main Ridge
Managing quarantine …
It’s just plain common sense that a highly infectious virus capable of aerosol transmission with a very sneaky characteristic of asymptomatic and presymptomatic spread should not be imported directly into the heart of a dense populations to hotels, where fresh air is scarce and the built environment is about housing not health.
However, if there is no political will in Canberra to bring Australians home in the safest possible way, the states are left with no choice but to attempt to mitigate.
As hotel quarantine relaunches, it is very important the hotels used are not viewed in isolation, but as part of an overall health system. It is inevitable some travellers will require hospitalisation. This should be in a dedicated single hospital, where workers are tested daily, and not hospitals scattered throughout Melbourne, acting as multiple entry points into our community.
Victorians deserve to know where acutely unwell COVID-19 patients requiring hospital care will be managed and whether they will all have negative pressure rooms, with permanent non-mobile staff who are tested daily and provided properly tested N95 masks.
Anita White, Kew
… should fall to Canberra
If there was to be one thing relating to the pandemic that Scott Morrison could do it would be to have the federal government take full control of returning Australians and their quarantine.
But true to form he won’t take leadership on this task because it might expose him to the horror (for him) of actually being accountable for something.
What is the point of having a huge bureaucracy in the Department of Home Affairs (which has emergency management as one of its remits) if it is not to be used for this purpose?
Brandon Mack, Deepdene
A worrying statistic
As welcome as the reduction in carbon emissions for the June quarter from the transport sector is, 21.2 per cent, it seems such a paltry amount when you consider the nation was nearly at a standstill.
If this is what it’s going to take to reverse the galloping climate change that’s driving our extreme weather events it’s going to be catastrophic for our economy.
This surely is a clear indication that the sooner we change our vehicle pool to electrically driven cars powered from renewable energy sources the sooner we’ll start to turn our atmospheric setting back to a more sustainable planet.
John Mosig, Kew
This tax is an own goal
To tax electric vehicles at this time is an own goal. Transport produces 20 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions and the most urgent thing the government should be doing now that COVID-19 is contained is to encourage a rapid switch to electric vehicles.
Enlightened jurisdictions around the world are providing massive subsidies to encourage this transition.
Victoria led the world by introducing compulsory wearing of seatbelts. We could and should be similarly at the forefront of climate-friendly transport rather than lamely following South Australia by taxing electric cars.
Peter Barry, Marysville
End this degrading farce
It is 1000 days since Nades, Priya and their two little girls were taken at 5am from their home in Biloela, Queensland. They have been detained ever since and the children face yet another Christmas isolated from other children, and behind wire in the detention centre on the inaptly named Christmas Island.
How much is it affecting the children’s upbringing and how much is it costing us, the taxpayers, to maintain the expense of holding these innocent children?
When will the government end this emotionally degrading and financial farce?
Elizabeth Meredith, Surrey Hills
Normal service resumes
The possessed and the obsessed are back on the streets. The mobile phone zombies have re-emerged: heads down, fidgeting with their gadgets and crashing into objects, their fellow worshippers and the (occasional) non-believer in pursuit of some technological nirvana.
I’m still puzzled by this postmodern fetish. Perhaps it is the desire to be connected but not aware and occupied but not content. It’s also annoying and rude.
Glenn Marchant, Pascoe Vale
A disappointing view
We are writing with regard to your editorial (‘‘Our allies need to step up response to China’’, 30/11) in which you say former Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer “took coin” from Huawei while serving on our local board.
While we may accept this kind of demeaning insinuation from other news organisations, we are very disappointed to see it from a publication like The Age, especially as part of your editorial.
Mr Downer served as an appointed board director of Huawei Australia from June 2011 until March 2014 alongside former Victorian premier John Brumby under Rear Admiral John Lord AM (retired), our former chairman. Mr Downer was subject to the Australian Corporations Act and was personally legally accountable for all actions undertaken by Huawei Australia, as would any other director of an Australian company be.
Indeed, while serving on our board, Mr Downer made it quite clear that should he ever find evidence of Huawei being involved in malevolent conduct that he would resign immediately – that, of course, was never necessary.
Furthermore, he has recently made it quite clear that since leaving our company, Huawei itself has not changed in the intervening years – but that the geopolitical environment in which we operate has changed greatly.
Jeremy Mitchell, chief corporate affairs officer, Huawei Australia
Our needs go deeper
Your Coate inquiry article (“Coate inquiry’s failure to answer key question offers little security”, The Age, 28/11) provides an interesting illustration of how the world looks from a journalistic perspective.
It begins by asserting “one of the most important questions it was established to resolve was allocating responsibility for the decision to use private security guards in quarantine hotels” implying failure to do that would make the inquiry itself a failure.
I hope the purpose was more than that. Surely, most important was working out how the pandemic could have been managed better for the sake of continued successful management and dealing with future crises of this type. Finding scapegoats and scalps might satisfy the media but the needs of the government and public go much further and deeper.
A national inquiry might look at why Australia, like most countries, was so unprepared for this crisis despite the warnings raised by SARS, Ebola and H1N1, not to speak of the so-called Spanish flu.
John Hird, Ripponlea
We must work together
Like others we took the opened ‘‘road to Gundagai’’ last week. In Canberra, we were surprised by how positive people were towards us as regards Victoria’s containing of the pandemic.
Coming home, on the ABC, we listened as Tim Flannery made the crucial connection to preventing climate change: Follow the science, neither the virus nor the factors causing global warming will respond to political spin; work together; this is an emergency.
Our Victorian democracy has been strengthened by the fact that, by and large, the government gave clear science-based direction and the community responded with discipline to what was asked.
Our work together has been for the common good. There is now more confidence to tackle other matters, especially the climate emergency. Our 2021 mantra can be: ‘‘Zero new infections. Zero carbon emissions ASAP’’.
We need the federal government to set this latter target and outline the road map with the clarity of purpose that we know encourages co-operation, for the common good.
To paraphrase the Psalmist, with a vision the people flourish.
Philip Huggins, Point Lonsdale
Not the right candidate
I was surprised by your European correspondent’s support (‘‘Engaging with the world’’, 29/11) of Mathias Cormann’s bid for heading the OECD. It is not just MrCormann’s green credentials, which are coal-black.
During his parliamentary career Mathias Cormann consistently supported – and helped pass – legislation that has created greater job insecurity and wage inequity.
He promoted Thatcherite tax policies, which reward his government’s wealthiest supporters at the expense of poorer Australians.
As finance minister, Mr Cormann was a co-architect, together with Scott Morrison, of the cruel robo-debt scheme, which caused huge damage to thousands of vulnerable citizens, for the sake of boosting the federal budget.
And as finance minister, he went to extraordinary efforts to stave off any royal commission into the massively predatory finance sector, until it became apparent that some of his backbench colleagues would support one.
Are these the values or the economic policies we want elevated to the top of the OECD?
Peter Gerrand, West Melbourne
A curious omission
Thanks to Amanda Vanstone for her article on ethical leadership (‘‘Credit for leaders is long overdue’’, Comment, 30/11).
Sadly she lacked the courage to apply the definition to the behaviour of any of our current leaders, including Scott Morrison at the top and many others in elected positions.
What’s the point of bringing this important issue to our attention and then failing to opine on how many of our current crop of politicians meet or fail the test?
Peter Randles, Pascoe Vale South
The more things change …
Amanda Vanstone recalls how then prime minister John Howard voted in cabinet against his own view and the view of conservative ministers because he thought the non-conservative ministers ‘‘were more in touch with community sentiment’’ (‘‘Credit for leaders is long overdue’’, Comment, 30/11).
Some 20 years on – think climate change and renewable energy – and it seems as though some things never change.
Maurice Critchley, Kenthurst, NSW
AND ANOTHER THING
China trade dispute
The China-Australia free trade agreement is not worth the paper it’s written on. Tear it up.
Bill O’Connor, Beechworth
Jobs, jobs, jobs: How does the Prime Minister reconcile the jobs mantra with the mismanagement of the Australia-China relationship?
Keith Lawson, Melbourne
The coal magnates shouldn’t worry too much with loss of income while their ships are held up; their profits will trickle up from the unemployed.
Breda Hertaeg, Beaumaris
More credit for leaders, says Amanda Vanstone (‘‘Credit for leaders is long overdue’’, Comment, 30/11), yet she has to go back to her romanticised Howard era for the exemplar.
Russell Ogden, Inverloch
I often see letters berating people for not wearing masks in their local shopping centre, but my observations are the exact opposite – there is almost 100 per cent compliance in Werribee Plaza apart from the few people who are clutching coffee cups.
Dave Torr, Werribee
Yes, thank you to our cafe owners and baristas (‘‘Outpouring of positivity’’, The Age, 30/11), our unsung heroes. Smiles, chatter and good coffee work wonders.
Mary Cole, Richmond
“Super spreaders” in the country have a different connotation.
Paul Chivers, Box Hill North
Stephen Duckett and Hal Swerissen offer a compelling argument for the need “to redesign the aged care system from the ground up” (‘‘Agreements key to better aged care’’, Comment, 30/11), and in doing so also broaden one’s knowledge of Greek mythology.
Joe Wilder, Caulfield North
You know you are doing something right when Russia and China are criticising you.
Dennis Murray, Warragul South
Note from the Editor
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