Australia’s wealth of natural resources, entrepreneurial spirit, democratic freedoms and prosperous way of life has made investment highly attractive to foreign companies.
Unfortunately, many Aussie icons have been sold to overseas investors, sending profits abroad, include Vegemite, Aeroplane Jelly, Victa Lawn Mowers, Arnott’s, Myer, OPSM and Sorbent (1).
Economic pressures are forcing many local businesses to sell up or shift their manufacturing offshore. AusBuy, the lobby group for locally-owned companies, asserts that if Australia continues selling its wealth-creating assets, we will have little ability to pay off rising foreign debts. (2).
Legislative loopholes, inconsistent government oversight and our prohibitive taxation system have delivered an unhealthy bias towards foreign ownership at the expense of our national interests.
The goal of Rise Up Australia is to limit and reduce foreign ownership of our assets (including the media), to repay our foreign debt and to reduce the influence of overseas organisations on Australia’s domestic policies and assets.
Such influences include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Trade Organisation (WTO) World Bank and the United Nations (UN) which we believe we can work with for the benefit of mankind without sacrificing Australia’s security and well-being.
1 Law and Tax Reform
Rise Up Australia would like to reform the Foreign Acquisitions and Takeovers Act and Foreign Investment Review Board to guard Australian-owned interests and to rectify inconsistencies in foreign ownership regulation.
For example, loopholes in the system require that a purchase of five acres in the arid Simpsons Desert obtain Foreign Ownership Board approval, but not the purchase of 200,000 acres of prime agricultural land in the Riverina (3).
All proposed sales to foreign investors, not simply those at the high end of the scale, would be required to undergo a ‘national interest test’ weighing up the pros and cons for Australia with full transparency and accountability.
Concerns over mass purchase of prime agricultural land have been well founded and are the result of a failure of government to adequately support and protect local farmers.
These ‘salt of the earth’ battlers have faced harsh weather conditions, reduced profits by supermarket price wars and a prohibitive tariff and taxation system that have caused many to buckle under the pressure. This has resulted in many having no choice but to place their farms on the market only to be snapped up by foreign investors.
This will continue to occur unless the Federal Government moves to protect our domestic interests. A sad case in point is that our “once-great grain interests are now majority controlled by foreign interests who do not differentiate the quality and integrity of our products” (4).
Rise Up Australia would also ensure that the taxation and tariff system still welcomes foreign investment but favours local businesses and investors. A return to the high tariff policy introduced in the era of former Deputy Prime Minister John McEwen in necessary to create a ‘level playing field’ for Australian producers.
We also would like to conduct a full review of the transfer pricing policy in which foreign companies ‘profit shift’ to avoid paying taxes in Australia.
Transfer pricing not only has had an adverse effect on our current account deficit but its mechanisms are open to potential abuse by some lawyers and accountants representing overseas interests who have tied up ATO resources and manipulated the auditing process (5).
Taxation and law reform with a strong system of checks and balances is necessary for a fairer and more transparent regulation.
2 Foreign Debt
Rise Up Australia believes it is not enough to have a AAA credit rating if we are still bound to foreign entities in debt. Without vital reforms, our nation faces a six-fold increase in government deficits over the next 25 years (6).
We are committed to paying off 100% of our foreign debt, recognizing that borrowing from any external source makes our nation vulnerable to influences by those who ‘hold the purse strings’.
Our nation’s dependency on foreign debt also puts our financial status at risk if international lending markets dry up or the banking sector’s costs increase sharply—factors at the mercy of global economic pressures that are out of Australia’s control (7).
We believe that it is prudent to ‘live within our means’ and encourage our citizens to do likewise because as the Bible warns, ‘the borrower is slave to the lender’ (8).
3 External Influences
Foreign influences can take many forms, for better or for worse. For example, the Word Bank releases a ‘Doing Business’ report and index that ranks countries on the “ease of doing business”. This accounts for issues such as setting up a business, paying taxes, etc.
Developed nations have objected to an apparent bias against regulations that provide worker safeguards such OHS regulations and employment conditions which some believe have caused some countries to deregulate in order to attract more business investment. (9) It is believed that the World Bank awarding higher marks to fewer restrictions on building permits was a contributing factor in tragedies similar to the Bangladesh factory collapse that killed 1127 people (10).
Foreign ownership and external influences may not always have the best interests of the Australian people at heart, so Rise Up Australia will work to ensure these issues are not detrimental to the wellbeing of our citizens.
Government decisions must consider our long-term future, not just one election cycle.
1 ‘Aussie icon Victa sold to US’, Australian Associated Press (AAP), 4 June 2008, http://www.news.com.au/business/aussie-icon-victa-sold-to-us/story-e6frfm1i-1111116534855
2 ‘Few Aussie brands remain’, Weekly Times Now, 29 September 2011, http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/article/2011/09/29/387411_opinion-news.html
3 ‘Clash of concerns over foreign ownership of Australian agriculture’, ABC News, 1 March 2013, http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2013/s3701228.htm
4 ‘The sale of Australia’s wealth-creating assets continue’, AusBuy, retrieved 16 August 2013, http://www.ausbuy.com.au/petition.html
5 ‘Counting the cost of transfer pricing’, The Age, 23 April 2008, http://www.theage.com.au/business/counting-the-cost-of-transfer-pricing-20080423-27xf.html
6 ‘Government debt to balloon without tax reform, warns PwC,’ The Australian, 23 July 2013, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/treasury/government-debt-to-balloon-without-tax-reform-warns-pwc/story-fn59nsif-1226683787930
7 ‘Australia debt still AAA despite surplus miss’, ABC News, 21 December 2012, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-21/ratings-agencies-affirm-australia-at-aaa/4439802
8 ‘The rich rule over the poor and the borrower is slave to the lender’, Proverbs 22: 7, Holy Bible, New International Version, retrieved 16 August 2013, http://www.bible.com/bible/111/pro.22.7.niv
9 ‘IMF and World Bank are losing clout in developing nations’, The Guardian, 31 May 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/31/imf-world-bank-lose-influence-developing
10 ‘Bangladesh factory collapse blamed on swamp ground and heavy machinery’, The Guardian, 24 May 2013, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/may/23/bangladesh-factory-collapse-rana-plaza?guni=Article:in%20body%20link