Sure, sure, sure … the age of entitlement is at an end. Let’s not be fooled.
$25 million for SPC Ardmona was small beer for the government and my guess is that the government found it useful to knock the request back to make the industrial relations argument.
But to suggest that there is any purity coming from the government in relation to industry policy (aka subsidies of various types), forget it.
In the same breath that it knocked back SPCA, it was working to ramp up the already ramped up anti-dumping laws. I was actually quite relieved when Sophie Mirabella lost her seat (I was not impressed by the way she lost her seat though) because I thought her ridiculous ideas about reversing the onus of proof in respect of anti-dumping claims would also be lost.
But, no, Ian McFarlane, Industry Minister (this position should be abolished, by the way) is evidently working up a package of changes to the legislation underpinning the anti-dumping regime.
Recall that anti-dumping used to be handled by Customs – very slowly and bureaucratically – about as good as you could get without actually abolishing the anti-dumping provisions.
Now I normally don’t read Emmo in The Weekend Australian but his piece this week makes quite a lot of sense apart from over-egging ‘the China will not be happy’ aspect. It looks pretty certain that reversing the onus of proof in respect of anti-dumping claims (the exporting firms would have to prove that products are not being sold below their costs) would violate World Trade Organisation rules and be struck down.
But here’s the real rub: anti-dumping is just another form of protection, just like governments handing over cash to rent-seeking firms.
And just because I am a sad sack, I did take a look at the Anti-dumping Commission’s recently released report on processed tomatoes after a complaint was launched by SPCA. It is basically unreadable and far too long.
But the main conclusion is that the dumping margins that the Commission found were tiny and even if a penalty tariff is imposed, it will only make a very small difference to the price of a tin of tomatoes – a few cents. (Note that the non-cooperating exporters will be out of here, in any case.)
So many words, for such a trivial outcome.