Monday, 9 February 2004
In the same week that Melbourne is yet again called the most liveable city in the world (a regular occurrence), John Howard, the Prime Minister of Australia, has negotiated a free-trade agreement that allows US businesses to invest as if it were just another state in the union.
The effects will be felt widely and for a long time; Australia has been moving more towards the States every year, and not in a good way. In combination with the effects of the GST, this will likely mean that the things that make Melbourne (and Australia) special are all the more likely to disappear.
It’s hard to underestimate the importance of small businesses to Australian culture; whether it’s the corner milk bar, butcher, computer shop or news agent. All of this is the antithesis of the American big-box Walmart retail and subdivision model, and they’ll wither in competition with American mega-corporations; there soon won’t be any choice but to work for and buy from them, and it’ll drastically change the Australian way of life.
I’ve always said that Australians didn’t know how good they had it; now they will, unfortunately.
UPDATE: see also a more detailed explanation (PDF, page 2) of the new foreign investment rules and some of their effects at HSBC Australia research.