AUSBUY is well aware of the present threats to our environment and believe this situation should be urgently addressed. We don't claim to know the answers and will leave this to the environmental experts.
However, we believe that successive governments have failed to invest in water and energy infrastructure and hence the need to encourage green alternatives, but we do not need to lead the world. It is a world problem and all parties should bear the responsibility.
Already many overseas countries such as Germany and the USA are making significant changes. They are acting not just talking about it and encouraging their green economy and manufacturing for the global market. It is interesting to note that Australia is regarded as a leader in new sustainable technologies but these innovations are not necessarily supported here and the knowledge goes off shore and the profits with it. We have a reputation for innovation and also a reputation for not being able to capitalise on this. Knowledge sourced in our universities is taken off shore to create wealth for individuals and other countries. Several solar energy innovations are examples where this has happened.
Environmental concerns are also tied up in trade.
At present, trade agreements are negotiated and ratified without concern for the environment of either country, and AUSBUY believes the government can no longer ignore this vital area. The lack of environmental concerns in China should have our government putting this on the negotiating table to ensure Australians aren't buying products that cause severe environmental damage in China in order to cut costs, while China races to the bottom in environmental standards, providing cheap disposable products to the west. China is not alone in this regard however, and as most countries refuse to have environmental concerns on the negotiating table, this suggestion is a long way from solving the problem of how to force major polluting and environmentally destructive countries to become accountable.
As a part of this, AUSBUY would not like to see Australia's environment threatened as part of any free trade agreement. The agreement with America and our membership of the World Trade Organisation has threatened Australia's unique environment, with foreign countries arguing that our strict quarantine standards are a hindrance to trade and create protectionist systems for our farmers and manufacturers. Trade discussions with China have stalled regarding agriculture because China wants greater access to our markets for its food. We have to question the conditions under which these are grown and the quality compared to Australian produce. Similar agreements with Chile (stone fruits) and the Phillipines (bananas) and New Zealand (apples) are all potential threats to our growers and our disease free foods.
Australia has one of the worlds most vibrant and fragile ecosystems and this is supported through our tough stance on imports. AUSBUY does not believe our wildlife should be threatened by multinational companies. It is too valuable. Our quarantine standards should remain despite external pressures, and the Australian Government should be able to determine these laws alone without pressure from trade organisations. In its turn Australia must ensure that our quarantine laws are backed by reputable scientific evidence to ensure these laws are fair in terms of world trade. We must be responsible and ensure the laws we pass, and the protections we support, are there, not for our trade advantage as this would be an irresponsible act in itself, although other countries do protect their borders even though they espouse free trade. For example, you cannot export food into any part of the USA unless the FDA approves the labels. This is a good way to say welcome then leave you waiting for years while bureaucracy makes a decision. This is not free trade.
We also believe in our right to keep our monopolistic utilities in public hands. Australia has in the past come under fire from countries, such as America, for protecting sectors from competition from outside this country. In particular, our health care, education and utilities such as water and energy have been questioned. In a country as dry as Australia, we believe our water organisations should never by privatised if there is no competition and that this protection is warranted and essential. AUSBUY could not agree to Australians having to purchase water harvested domestically from a multinational organisation and no alternative source, or having to buy energy from foreign companies. These are strategic industries with national security as well as the environment at their core.
Another impost on our environment in the guise of helping our river system has been when our government enters the market to buy water licenses owned by foreign companies. This sets a new benchmark in the price of water for Australian farmers. Our own farmers take a long term view of their land. It is cared for so that future generations of Australians can inherit it, not for short term fixes. This just adds another burden to our own landowners. If we do not own the agricultural products we sell off shore then Australia does not get the export income. Profits go off shore and our land is used for quick returns not sustainable practices.
Or the NSW sold mining exploration rights to BHP and a Chinese mining company for the black soil north western region of NSW, regarded as one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. Farmers have to defend their rights to cultivate their land and use the aquifers which have fed the soils and the Murray Darling for millennia. A short term cash grab could decimate one of Australia’s most productive assets.
In further protecting our fragile ecosystem, AUSBUY is against the Victorian Government decision not to renew its ban on GE produce. This means that GE crops can be planted in Victoria with no way of containing them within this state. Supporting groups, who are mostly scientists and seed patent owners, have argued farmers are set to gain on switching to GE crops, which they claim are easier and cheaper to grow. AUSBUY believes our farmers can gain through their status as clean, green and GE free, as Australia would be one of the few farming nations that can make this claim.
To add insult to injury, if an Australian GE farmer has his product in a silo which latter has GE product he has to pay the multinational seed supplier for contaminating the GE crop. In addition, farmers cannot propagate GE crops with seed supplied by the multi-nationals every season.
Our labelling laws do not identify GE products. If consumers know what is really in their food they can choose not to buy that product. As the world becomes more environmentally conscious, Australia's clean green image would become more valuable.
At present Australian trade and our trade figures rely enormously on mineral resources. Whilst minerals did keep Australia in the black each year, there is a possible finite limit to these minerals, and due to the environmental damage caused by mining, we believe the government should be developing other sectors to eventually replace these resources on the world market. We have been alarmed to see both parties watch the decline in our manufacturing capabilities, and even in these down times to do nothing to support those manufacturers with their skilled jobs which remain.
AUSBUY believes that world trade negotiations are a perfect forum in which to pressure countries to reduce their emissions and make a commitment to embrace a more environmentally responsible attitude to manufacturing and transport. Australia needs to investigate renewable energies to this end. As technological developments may not only offer a solution to global warming, but also provide trade opportunities and jobs here.
AUSBUY believes Australians can be empowered to support the environment through their purchasing decisions. By supporting Australian manufacturers and farmers, by buying locally, cuts transport costs and the resources required to move products from overseas into supermarkets. We can purchase fruit and vegetables from farmers markets within our community and always buy Australian made and owned, if not community made and owned. This will ensure the profits stay local and the cost on the environment is minimised.