Abbott’s foreign investment policy

This is the sen­tence that makes me feel most uncom­fort­able:

Vot­ers are like­ly to be less hos­tile to for­eign invest­ment if they think that the gov­ern­ment is pre­serv­ing a well-bal­anced econ­o­my.

Extract from We are pledged to real reform | The Aus­tralian

Most of the Abbott state­ments about man­u­fac­tur­ing assis­tance, trans­ac­tion costs and “eco­nom­ic diver­si­ty” that trade lib­er­als (includ­ing at least one clos­et lib­er­al) have jumped on are like­ly noth­ing more than atmos­pher­ic “jaw­bon­ing”. They’re sub­ject to pub­lic review and delib­er­a­tion, as Abbott him­self notes. A com­pet­i­tive polit­i­cal response to sig­nif­i­cant struc­tur­al changes in the econ­o­my; but, plau­si­bly, win­dow-dress­ing.

But the FIRB pow­ers to “main­tain a well-bal­anced economy”—whatever that means—are with­out let or hin­der­ance and un-reviewed. That makes them a real threat, not just atmos­pher­ics.

On a more pos­i­tive side, I was pleas­ant­ly sur­prised by Sen­a­tor Carr’s report­ed response to the man­u­fac­tur­ing unions’ demands:

We don’t believe an inquiry is the right approach to ensur­ing the con­tin­u­ing pros­per­i­ty to Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ing,” he said.

“The approach is to look at the pol­i­cy frame­work and exam­ine ways in which it can be reviewed.”

Sen­a­tor Carr said the econ­o­my was foist­ing new chal­lenges on Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ers that would force the trans­for­ma­tion of tra­di­tion­al indus­tries and the cre­ation of new sec­tors that includ­ed new “world-class com­pa­nies”.

While Sen­a­tor Carr backed giv­ing Aus­tralian man­u­fac­tur­ers “fair and rea­son­able” access to major resource projects, he insist­ed there would be no retreat to pro­tec­tion­ism through means such as man­dat­ing local con­tent.

“It’s no good pre­tend­ing the world is as we once thought it was in the 1950s, as the Libs would have us believe,” he said. “It’s about build­ing for the 21st cen­tu­ry.”

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