“Co-investment” is a new version of the old discredited protectionism
The trade union movement’s latest “push to spread industry aid” shows the unions are again seeking to reclaim the power and influence they once enjoyed, Bert Kelly Research Centre chairman Bob Day writes in The Spectator Australia:
The important difference between the industry protectionist rackets of the early Federation era and this new form of government control is that the costs of protection never appeared in the government budgets of the time. In those days, the tariffs on imported goods kept the costs out of the country. Local manufacturers pocketed the difference between the world price and the local price Australian consumers were forced to pay after the tariff was added, which, in the case of motor cars, was more than 100 per cent.
The same went for clothing, textiles and footwear. Once the Tariff Board had agreed to an increase in the tariff, the unions and the owners of the protected industries came together to divide the spoils. The Arbitration Commission then did what was expected of it. Often, the arrangements were made within days of each other.
Protectionism lasted as long as it did because it was supported politically by the unions, the ALP, the Country party and by the protected industries, concentrated in Melbourne and Adelaide.