Friday, June 26, 2020

Australia-UK free trade agreement: Visas on the table under negotiations to begin this month

It was a great blow when Britain entered the Common Market. Australian goods had access to British buyers substantially limited and moving from one of the countries to the other was hampered.  We seem likely to unwind that now that Britain is leaving the EU

There has been a continual stream of British migration to Australia ever since 1788, with the result that British customs have been continually refreshed in Australia.  With over a million British-born people living in Australia, there is virtually nothing about Britain that is unfamilar in Australia.

So for traditional but also continually refreshed reasons, Australia is very much like just another of the British regions that has somehow been moved to the other side of the word. 

The British regions all have their distinctive identity, culture and version of English and that is also true of Australia.  The difference between Australia and the Home Counties is in fact slighter than the difference betreen the Home counties and some thorougly English regions.  An Australian accent is, for instance, better understood in the Home Counties than a Geordie accent is

So there is every reason to open up movement between Britain and Australia

Greater opportunities for business visas and the potential to “streamline and extend” working holiday visas for young people are on the table as part of a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Britain and Australia.

Speaking at an Australian British Chamber of Commerce webinar on Monday, Australian Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham said despite high levels of mobility between the UK and Australia there is room for improvement.

“[We] ought to provide for mutual recognition of qualifications and standards to make it easier for skilled professionals to work in each others countries,” he said.

“We of course have a rich history of young people from each country undertaking an almost rite of passage of living, working, travelling around each others countries. “Perhaps we can streamline and extend that,” he said, so the “terms of that are as flexible as they can be.”

While Mr Birmingham said the trade deal is “not an open borders arrangement” there is a need to facilitate movement of people along with the improved investment flows and mutual recognition of qualifications the free trade deal hopes to provide.

He said “never before” has a trade deal been seen from an Australian perspective as one that could be “so easy and yet so fruitful.” “I know we go into this with similar ambitions … this is an agreement we should be able to strike quickly and easily.” “I certainly hope that we can work though faster than any others.”

An FTA between the two nations has been years in the planning and talks will officially kick off online on June 29. The UK is also seeking an FTA with New Zealand while Australia is pursuing one with the European Union (EU).

Britain officially left the EU on 31 January 2020 allowing it the ability to pursue independent trade deals, however it is still negotiating its future relationship with the bloc that will come into effect on 1 January 2021 after a year's transition period.

UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss said Australia is a “key partner and ally” for the UK in is pursuit of becoming a global trading hub.

“When we entered the EU some people felt like we’d slightly lost touch with some of our old friends,” she said, adding that the two countries “speak with a similar voice on the world stage about the importance of free trade.”

The deal is set to benefit food and drink producers in both countries, as well as reducing the regulatory burden of setting up overseas for small businesses.

The UK automotive industry hopes to benefit from selling tariff-free cars to Australia, while Australian agricultural producers are set to benefit from not being locked out of trade barriers erected by the EU.

Digital services are also expected to play a key role in the deal, and the UK is hoping an FTA with New Zealand and Australia will pave the way for it to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) – an FTA involving 11 Asia Pacific states.

Ms Truss said there was “quite a lot of booze flowing between the UK and Australia” in terms of Aussie wine and British whisky and gin.

“I see this as being an exemplar deal where two like-minded trading nations can show the world what free trade can look like,” she said. “There is no stronger relationship than with Australia.”

“[Australian Prime Minister] Scott Morrison and [UK Prime Minister] Boris Johnson see eye-to-eye. We see this an opportunity to make closer friends with one of our best friends in the world.”

As for when international business travel might be back on the agenda, Ms Truss said it was “one of the key elements” the country was looking at as it emerges from lockdown.

Already Spain has announced British travellers will not have to quarantine there, with a number of deals with other European countries such as Portugal and France expected to follow.

Mr Birmingham said while travel restrictions are “tough for a nation like Australia … it’s also a reality that we are stuck with those restrictions for some time to come.”

He said the country is first looking at opening up to New Zealand and then potentially opening “business lanes” in “carefully calibrated ways” that could facilitate investment flows between the two countries.


Bayer to keep selling Roundup in Australia, will fight local lawsuits

Bayer will keep selling glyphosate-based weed sprays in Australia and fight litigation here against its product Roundup, despite agreeing to pay more than $US10 billion ($14.6 billion) to settle thousands of claims in the US alleging it causes cancer.

Executives from the company's United States and Australian operations vigorously defended glyphosate weed sprays in an early morning media call on Thursday, saying the product was safe to use and backed by a large body of scientific evidence around the world collected over many decades.

"What I want to make clear is we continue to proudly stand behind the safety and utility of our products, and our commitment to offer them to farmers and other users in Australia and around the world," said Brett Begemann, chief operating officer at Bayer’s crop science division.

"The decision to resolve these cases was driven by our desire to bring greater certainty to farmers we serve every day," he said.

Mr Begemann said the settlement came with a big expense, but was the "right decision" for Bayer and its stakeholders. The settlement would also enable Bayer to return its focus to work on the development of new agricultural products to protect crops.

Two class actions have already been launched against Roundup in Australia and are in their early stages.

Roundup is the biggest selling glyphosate-based weedspray in the world and is used extensively by farmers in various agricultural segments to kill weeds. It is also used by commercial gardeners and home gardeners.

Roundup is owned by Bayer, after the German company bought the US agrochemical company Monsanto in 2018. Monsanto invented and manufactured Roundup for decades, which meant that Bayer inherited the legal claims against Roundup with the 2018 deal.

"Let me be clear that the settlement in the United States has no bearing on glyphosate proceedings in any other jurisdiction. Bayer will actively defend any and all claims concerning Roundup brought against it in Australian courts...we're fully committed to these crucial weed control technologies and that commitment’s unwavering," Mr Begemann said.

The coronavirus pandemic was a key reminder of the importance of agriculture, food and science to the world, he said.

"We'll continue to sell Roundup and other glyphosate-based products to our loyal customer base," he said.

"There's a really strong consensus around the world that glyphosate does not cause cancer and is not carcinogenic. No regulator in the world has ever indicated they've seen any of that," he said.

Joerg Ellmanns, Bayer’s crop science country divisional head for Australia and New Zealand, said glyphosate weed sprays were a "cornerstone" of Australian agriculture, and the company had no plans to change its marketing of glyphosate products in this country.

Mr Ellmanns said sales of Bayer's glyphosate weed sprays in Australia were performing strongly.  "We believe it's essential for Australian agriculture," he said.

Shortly after Bayer bought Monsanto a California court awarded $US289 million to school groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson, who claimed that glyphosate caused his cancer. The monetary award was later reduced and Bayer appealed the verdict.

In Australia, the first class action launched against Bayer over Roundup was led by a Melbourne gardener, who blamed his non-Hodgkin lymphoma, diagnosed in 2011, on his use of Roundup. The case was launched last year.


Channel 7, Sam Armytage and Prue MacSween sued for racial vilification

Channel Seven, Sunrise host Samantha Armytage and commentator Prue MacSween are being sued for racial vilification over a 2018 discussion on the network’s breakfast program.

The decision to take the complaint to Federal Court was made after settlement discussions at the Australian Human Rights Commission crumbled.

The court case stems from a segment on Sunrise in March 2018 where the panel – which including Armytage, MacSween and radio host Ben Davis – suggested a second stolen generation was needed to help Aboriginal children.

“Just like the first stolen generation where a lot of kids were taken for their wellbeing, we need to do it again,” MacSween said on the program.

The discrimination case is being led by legal firm Susan Moriarty and Associates, which in a statement said the eight Aboriginal complainants were “forced” to take their case to the Federal Court after settlement discussions collapsed.

Indigenous elder Aunty Rhonda, who is leading the complaint, said the group just wanted “accountability and equality”.

“This nationwide broadcast by Channel Seven in March 2018 was another symbol of national shame and another appalling example of the deeply entrenched virus of racism that still plagues white platforms of privilege in this country,” she said.

“Channel Seven’s subsequent disingenuous downcast eyes and ‘we’re so sorry’ murmurs, after we protested and their racism was called out, mean nothing to us when they refuse all reasonable requests for proper repatriation of the pulverising hate, humiliation and distress we feel every day of our lives.”

Dozens of protesters chanted outside Sunrise’s Sydney studio in March 2018 in the days after the segment.

The Australian Communication and Media Authority also found the segment to be in breach of the Commercial Television Industry Code Of Practice.

The ACMA forced Channel Seven to independently audit the production process behind Sunrise and all editorial staff were required to undertake training on racism and Aboriginal affairs.


Australian arts and culture to get $250m rescue package from Morrison government

The Morrison government will unveil a $250m support package for Australia’s arts and cultural sectors, including $90m in government-backed concessional loans to fund new productions that will create jobs during the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scott Morrison will also use Friday’s national cabinet meeting to try to reach agreement with the premiers on a timetable for reopening theatres and local productions in an attempt to provide some certainty to a sector hit for six during the crisis.

The local industry has been devastated economically because of social distancing restrictions that have shut down film and television productions, theatres and touring shows.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the emergency relief for the arts from Canberra has consisted of a $27m package, announced in April, directed to regional organisations, Indigenous organisations and music industry outreach outfit Support Act, and the Australia Council’s repurposing of $5m in existing funding for small, quick-release grants.

Thursday’s package includes a $75m grant program that will provide capital to help Australian production and events businesses put on new festivals, concerts, tours and other events as social distancing restrictions ease. Grants will range from $75,000 to $2m.

Screen Australia will administer a $50m fund to help finance local productions that have shut down to comply with public health measures. In addition to the social distancing requirements, many productions had to fold because they could not secure insurance.

The government will also provide $35m to what it describes as “significant commonwealth-funded arts and culture organisations” – which could include theatres, dance companies or musical groups. The Australia Council will help allocate the funding.

The package also includes $90m in concessional loans to help bankroll new productions and events that provide employment and generate revenue. The loans will be provided by the banks but underwritten by the commonwealth.

Morrison also intends to create a taskforce to oversee the implementation of the support package.

Australia’s live performance industry says the pandemic has triggered an unprecedented crisis, with a catastrophic impact on jobs, but the rescue package has been slow in coming. A meeting of arts ministers in late May ended in a stalemate after Canberra blocked a push from the states to broaden the jobkeeper wage subsidy to boost the struggling sector.

The states have funded support packages of various sizes, with Victoria having committed more than $51m across the sector and the New South Wales government pledging $50m for a “rescue and restart” package.

Under pressure from Labor and the Greens to do more, the government has said people employed in the cultural sector have been given access to income support during the pandemic. It says $100m in wage subsidies and cashflow support was provided to the sector during April and May.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data suggests 645,303 people are employed in Australia’s arts and cultural sectors.

The expenditure review committee of cabinet considered the $250m package last Thursday night after talks between Morrison and representatives from the entertainment sector. Morrison and the arts minister, Paul Fletcher, met by teleconference with the heads of entertainment industry associations, including the Australian Recording Industry Association, touring companies, the chief executive of the Australian Chamber Orchestra and artists Mark Vincent and Guy Sebastian.

Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Fletcher said: “We are backing over 600,000 Australians in the cultural and creative sectors whose work contributes $112bn to our economy.

“These sectors have been hit hard during the pandemic, and the government’s investment will play an important role in the nation’s economic recovery.”


 Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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