Tim Blair


New Criterion



Monday, August 02, 2004
IN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE since sunrise, Labor's Trade spokeswaverer has signalled that Labor will be supporting the Free Trade Agreement with the US.

It's just OK on a fine balance of costs and benefits, concluded Peter Cook. Considering the opposition within his own party, from the usual anti-Yanks of the left, and the industrial protectionists in the union leadership, you'd have to wonder why Cook thinks it worth offending so many of the faithful for so little benefit.

We have available to us the obvious explanation: Cook doesn't believe his own faint praise for the deal. The Labor State Premiers certainly don't.

Auntie's commentariat is not giving up so easily. Yesterday's
Pastor Lane rant from the Radio National pulpit performed one of his strange disappearing acts, wherein the ageing Marx-botherer leads his lengthy case from some ideological stroke-pal, and then disappears without even a gulp of embarrassment when his confabulation is revealed by some inconvenient later guest.

In this case, the stroke-pal was Canadian agricultaral lobbyist Darrin Qualman, whose anti-trade tirade was based on the interests of highly-protected Canadian agriculture. The long, steady decline in the family farm was down to international trade, we were told.

"Marx predicted it all!" crowed Pastor Lane.

Lane's next guest, Mick Keogh from the Australian Farm Institute, spoke for Australia's highly-competitive agriculture, and he found no connection between trade and the fate of family farming. And that was the end of the program. No explanation sought or offered. A truly Gastropodian standard of argument.

Tonight Auntie's big gun, Four Corners, follows up with a view on the likely impact of the deal on our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Will Jonathan Holmes agree with Peter Cook that Australian governments can protect the Scheme? Will he find cause to fear the bastardry of the big US pharmaceutical companies? Go on, guess.

I guess Auntie is going to vote Green. Lord Bob-Brown views pharmaceutical manufacturers like Margo Kingston views international Zionism.