Richard Denniss: Should we all move to New Zealand?

new_zealandIn an op/ed in the Canberra Times today, Dr Richard Denniss, Executive Director of The Australia Institute asks whether there is scope for hope on the left in an Abbott Prime Ministership.

Denniss alludes to the oft-expressed desire of lefties to move to New Zealand during conservative administrations. It probably did make more sense when our friends across the Tasman had a left wing government. Personally, although I yearn for different destinations, I’m hoping Tony Abbott will follow up his HECS for apprentices by giving folk who want to go a $20 000 loan for the wherewithal to relocate.

There’s a serious point here, though. (Though the above is also a serious point.) We live in a world where human and ecological interconnections are stronger than ever, even if we’ve largely stopped talking about ‘globalisation’ in the academy.

I liked what a friend told me the other night – that he was seeing himself increasingly as a “rootless cosmopolitan” and that from that perspective, retrograde decisions on climate change (say) in Australia were only a little local difficulty.

Of course, he’s only half serious, but it does point to the fact that there are still points of intervention out there. Increasingly, and animal rights and protests over Russian homophobic laws point to this, we are aware that our concerns are global, and that our mission is often to give voice to the voiceless or amplify the voices that are censored or constrained.

So I think we need to think more about this – how do we argue for a progressive politics in Australia from a global perspective? I think that’s potentially a more powerful speaking position from which to address Mr Abbott’s Fortress Australia.

All this raises the question of whether some of Denniss’ list of policy areas where there *is* scope to intervene locally are equivalent to “economic nationalism”. He mentions (as well as Coal Seam Gas) land ownership and the duopoly of Woolworths and Coles as points of fracture (frackture?) in the Coalition.

Smart thinking, but wasn’t Kevin Rudd pilloried for making similar arguments?

But the local is the global. And the global is the local.

FDI in land inflates the housing market as well as distorts capital markets in agriculture. At the same time, food security is international, and Australia’s food culture, and ability to pay a living wage to our producers, are both negatively impacted by the duopoly. We, or many of us, buy Fair Trade coffee. Do we think about Fair Trade as between Australians?

The reflex “oh noes! it’s protectionism!” cry, raised within the Labor Party as well as the right wing press, should be ignored. There are things to think about here. And reasons for hope.

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25 responses to “Richard Denniss: Should we all move to New Zealand?”

  1. Lefty E

    Agreed Mark: we do need to grapple with the idea that what passes as ‘globalisation’ is frequently some larger country’s self-interest imposing itself. And as always, mainstream politics cant expect commerce to be globalised if dont want other norms (political, cultural, human rights) following.

    One word for those dealing with these issues: Just dont use the neologism “glocal” – and everything will be ok.

  2. Sam

    Australia’s food culture ..[is] negatively impacted by the duopoly

    Australia’s food culture? LOL. If it’s chops and three veg that you’re after, you can buy those easily and cheaply at Coles and Woolworths.

  3. Moz of Yarramulla

    Anyone suggesting that needs their head read. NZ has a government that makes the coalition look like genuine intellectuals with a committment to human rights and feminism.

    Look at the Kim Dotcom cases – NZ used an anti-terrorist squad to arrest the guy despite not really knowing whether he’d broken any laws (but being certain that they had). Later it turned out he’d (successfully) bribed a politician but that’s ok because it was a microparty that the government needs support from. Want rule of law? Try PNG.

    There’s regular abuse of urgency and majority in parliament to sqelch opposition, and brainfart legislation gets passed then patched after the event.

    The best thing is CERA. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority. It’s close to Fijian quality, having a whole lot of powers to override everything from civil liberties to property rights, and using them with enthusiasm. At least it’s run by an elected MP, rather than being yet another government crony appointed despite the process rather than through it.

    Their economy is also doing badly, and That Nice Mr Key{tm} has a program to help kiwis catch up… by moving to Australia. Well, maintaining that ability is the only substantive measure he’s managed while PM. They’ve implemented the sort of policies that people here fear the coalition will, and the effects have been predictable.

  4. Moz of Yarramulla
  5. Ron Lubensky

    Denmark then?

  6. jungney

    No, not NZ. Nice place to visit and all that but so called Rogernomics was only a success because NZ exported a large chunk of its potential unemployed to Australia. It’s been going on like that since the 1980’s.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your suggestion that ‘globalisation’ is only ever in the interests of one major partner. Otherwise, what we find in the industrialising world is that fractions of the local bourgeoisie benefit from the trade and the rest are pretty much waiting for the trickle down to start.

    It seems to me that the real subject of your piece is ‘what are we gonna do now?’.

    Well, let’s stick it to ’em. I mean, already we have the absurdity of Bishop as the only female front bencher. This term oughta be a political massacre.

    The old environment movement will learn a bitter lesson from what is about to happen to old growth forests in Tassie; the new green movement will have to regroup around global warming; the women’s movement will have learned some sort of lesson from the way that Gillard was treated by the male establishment especially those parts of it embedded in the media.

    Altogether a period of realignment.

  7. Sam

    Denmark then?

    Definitely not. The place is full of psychopaths. Haven’t you seen The Killing?

  8. Moz of Yarramulla

    jungney: remember that most of those “potential unemployed” came to Australia and got jobs. For a long time the national group with the highest employment rate and average income in Australia was kiwis. Which made the whole “NZ should pay for kiwis in Oz on benefits” claims a bit backwards – on that basis Australia should have been paying NZ for the privilege of hosting them.

  9. Helen

    Moz @5: Here, we call it “Public Private Partnerships”.

  10. jungney

    Moz: jobs? As debt collectors and wide comb advocates. No great benefit to either economy.

  11. Robert Merkel

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think a great deal of much of Denniss’s agenda.

    On CSG, I’d just point out that Labor remains solidly in favour of it, as do the big business interests behind the Coalition. So the odds of making serious progress on the issue are limited.

    On Coles and Woolies, I remain thoroughly unconvinced why “the Left” should be getting involved in disputes between one group of greedy businesspeople and another. As has been pointed out ad infinitum here, there is actually no evidence that the grocery duopoly is raking in duopoly profits; the benefits are getting passed on to consumers. Katter doesn’t care – he wants city folks rich and poor to pay more for their groceries to keep otherwise uneconomic Queensland dairy farmers (for instance) doing what they’ve always done more poorly than farmers elsewhere in Australia.

    I do agree with his concerns about government services in regional Australia, however, both as a policy issue and a potential political wedge.

  12. Graham Bell

    Mark asked

    how do we argue for a progressive politics in Australia from a global perspective?

    with great difficulty …. after the disasters the Hawke and Keating governments inflicted on us – and after all the lost opportunities and the neglect of our own interests during the 11+ year reign of the TransPacific whatyoumaycallit.

    Too many people have been impoverished and far too few people have gained from Australia’s belly-flop into the global(??) economy for a global perspective to be popular now. Too many of our industries have been crippled and too many of our assets have been sold off to the lowest bidder for many people to be enthusiastic about having a global perspective.

    Some of us, for many reasons, are probably more cosmopolitan than average – yet we have been subjected to abuse and false accusations of “racism” whenever we asked searching questions about, for instance, manifestly dodgy investments, or, country-of-origin labelling, or, the cost shifting caused by making competent Australians unemployed. We will probably remain global – cosmopolitan – in our outlook …. but now, quite cynical as well.

    New Zealand? No way Mr Kay. Singapore or Norway or Finland, please, at least there they have governments and business communities that put the interests of their own people first and they are prudent in handling their own people’s investments and taxes.

    Abbott’s Fortress Australia? Are you kidding? Don’t you mean Abbott’s Take-Away Australia?

  13. Russell

    It’s been under conservative governments that NZ and the UK got gay marriage, so, who knows?

    Robert, Denniss doesn’t argue the duopoly thing on price, but what they do with their ever-growing market power.

  14. Russell

    True, but, who knows? It’s one area where we can hope.

    In the last parliament Abbott said that they couldn’t reverse the position they had taken to the election. I think this time they didn’t mention it, so if a Bill passes the Senate and lands in the Reps, and enough ALP MPs can encourage a few LNP MPs to cross over, it could happen.

    Abbott’s daughters were probably rubbishing him this morning about having one woman in cabinet, and what that means for the youth vote, and if they do the same with SS marriage, it may persuade him to let it go through. We can hope.

  15. jungney

    Russell, dude, Leviticus on homesexuals:

    Homosexual acts are an abomination to God. 18:22

    If a man has sex with another man, kill them both. 20:13

    Same sex marriage is not going to happen. If it does it will be a true wonder to behold Tony Abbott agreeing to it.

  16. Sam

    SS marriage

    This makes me think of Mr and Mrs Himmler. Can we use a different abbreviation?

  17. Russell

    Well, I heard Abbott say on Crabb’s kitchen program that religion had to be separated from government. He didn’t write it down. But he said it.

  18. paul burns

    And how would it have affected the election result if he had said religion shouldn’t be separated from politics, Russell? 🙂

  19. Salient Green

    Robert @14, “On Coles and Woolies, I remain thoroughly unconvinced why “the Left” should be getting involved in disputes between one group of greedy businesspeople and another.”
    You’re obtusely generalising. Most of the duopoly’s suppliers are family businesses which must comply with labour, occ health and safety, environmental and food safety standards which the cheap imports sold by the duopoly are not subject to.
    Applying ‘greedy’ to those family businesses would be offensive if they ever got to read your obscure and ill-informed opinions.
    Australian producers are generally the most efficient in the world and to suggest that Qld dairy farmers, or any other primary producer here is doing it ‘poorly’ is the height of ignorance.

  20. Salient Green

    Robert @14 “there is actually no evidence that the grocery duopoly is raking in duopoly profits; the benefits are getting passed on to consumers”
    The ‘benefits’ are short termerism at it’s worst. Cheap imported foods mean the end of local producers, local jobs and local wealth.
    So you reckon the duopoly is not raking it in? Howls of derisive laughter.

    “Katter doesn’t care” the fuck he doesn’t. He’s got a few shit policies but he cares, [personal comment redacted ~Mod]

  21. Graham Bell

    Salient Green 21 & 22:
    Heartily agree with you.

    One of the reasons I despise Hawke and Keating and all their chums is that they were so obsessed with going global that they took Australia into the dog-eat-dog global business environment without bothering to protect Australian industries and the Australian public against all the dirty tricks of the trade. That was as stupid as a general sending troops against an entrenched enemy – but without ammunition! There was indeed a long-overdue need for reform and there was a crying need to get out and compete on the world’s markets but what happened wasn’t reform, it was a combination of naivity and arrogant stupidity …. and we have been paying dearly for that folly ever since. Australians are seen as the suckers in global business.

    So let’s start defending ourselves. Neither our business community nor our government will do a thing to protect us against offshore predators and their dodgy products and their rip-off prices, not a thing. It’s up to us to look after ourselves.

    We can all start by boycotting products that do not display country-of-origin but instead carry a label that says “Made from Local and Imported Materials” – once stock stops moving, the dominant retailers will stop carrying it. Who knows? They may even ne tempted to carry more Made In Australia stuff.

  22. Nickws

    @ 12

    On Coles and Woolies, I remain thoroughly unconvinced why “the Left” should be getting involved in disputes between one group of greedy businesspeople and another.

    Then the Oz left has to take a page out of the American good government anti-trust tradition, and at the very least start making noises about “wouldn’t it be a shame if someone broke up this cartel”.

    Robert, one of these behemouths announced they wanted to get into retail banking, the Friday before the election. Right when nobody but Katter would dare come out and oppose the initiative, so nobody (Labor, Greens, Barnaby if he’s feeling ornery) could reorient their election platform to so much as address this potential attack on the four pillars.

    You may not be interested in unrestrained supermarket cartellism, but unrestrained supermarket cartellism is interested in you.

  23. Ronson Dalby

    Re Abbott and same sex marriage and the possibility of him one day supporting it:

    I’ve just listened to an interview on ABC702’s 11am Conversations programme (audio is not online at this time) with Lt Col Kate McGregor, a transgender Australian Army officer:

    Towards the end of the interview, McGregor talks about Abbott and how they’ve been very close friends for many, many years including playing in the same football team. They remain close friends to this day.

    How this reconciles with the politician Abbott, I don’t know. During the interview I couldn’t wondering if we’ll ever see the ‘real’ Abbott if that creature actually exists.