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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Australian federal budget 2014. Some suggestions from a humble shipping bloke.

On the 13 of May the new Australian Government hands down the Australian Federal Budget 2014. The speculation as to what will be in it seems bigger than ever in the media. While in no way do I consider myself an economist, at very best perhaps a bush economist, I'd like to enter the fray with a couple of suggestions for the Treasurer, Joe Hockey.

I think most Australians accept our country is now back in debt and it needs to be addressed. Generally I think we are prepared to take some pain rather than go the way of other countries whose debt grew to such an overwhelming level that their economies became dysfunctional. The Australian government must raise tax revenue, cut costs and help our exporters. Pure and simple.



With my background and qualifications in international trade and customs I think one area that government should use is with import duties. An increase in import duty of just 1 or 2%, on imported goods from countries that Australia does not have a free trade agreement with, would generate huge revenue and also help protect our local jobs and manufacturers who are rapidly disappearing with increasing global competition. Furthermore it would make imported goods slightly more expensive and hopefully slow imports down and thus improve our balance of payments. Such an increase to import duty is easy to apply and cheap to administer as Customs have the IT infrastructure to do this already.

Back in my college days, about 25 years ago, I wrote my final paper suggesting that protectionist policy had had it's day and we would see free trade between nations and trading blocks emerge. I was severely marked down on this at the time as my lecturer had a strong protectionist and differing view. Essentially what I predicted is what has come to pass though. 

I have not been a protectionist for all of my working life however I now think in the next 5-10 years we may go full circle and we will start implementing protectionist policy once again. I believe many other countries in the west will be forced to as they cannot compete with other other countries and keep their population employed. So as global competition is intensifying I am gradually becoming a protectionist conditional upon import duties imposed being kept to a bare minimum. In my mind an absolute maximum of 5% as we do not want our local industry to become complacent or reliant on import duty for survival.

The other area is GST. While I do not profess to know the finer points of Canadian taxation, it seems to me that the Canucks are doing it pretty well and adjust the rate of GST up or down accordingly to act as another economic lever. During the GFC they lowered their GST progressively from 9% to 5% where it is now which in effect helped stimulate the economy by making things cheaper.

In Australia the main and seemingly only lever we use is interest rates to slow down or to stimulate economy. Pretty crude approach in comparison to our Canadian mates who have very similar economy to ours with mining, tourism and agriculture being key drivers and two levers to pull economically. We should follow their lead.

Apart from that, help is on the way to our exporters. This month the government increased expenditure on Export Market Development Grants and simplified the process. A positive initiative that will certainly assist.

If only the AUD would weaken to sensible levels for our exporters then we'd be knocking down that foreign debt in no time.

I'm happy to take your call Mr Hockey if you'd like a few more suggestions...

All for now,

+Brad Skelton 

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