Monday, July 31, 2006

The Banana Monarchy?

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating was once voted “The World’s Best Treasurer”. He was committed to fundamental structural reform of the Australian economy, and was responsible for the deregulation of Australia’s financial system and the floating of the Australian dollar.

But Australia’s trade deficit was always one of Keating’s worries. During a 1996 radio interview, he warned Australians to curb their debt or risk the nation becoming a “banana republic”. The comment sent the value of the dollar tumbling, and gave Keating’s critics a stick with which to poke him in the eye.

Back in my days with the Young Liberals, the “banana republic” theme was used to great effect. During the 1996 Federal Election, an old mate ran as endorsed Liberal Candidate for Paul Keating’s Western Sydney seat of Blaxland.

At polling booths, Liberal Party volunteers were provided with a box of rotten bananas and a simple script. Anyone refusing a Liberal “how-to-vote” sheet would be offered a rotting banana instead. “Vote Liberal or vote for Keating’s banana republic”.

Now, with the latest inflation figures and with interest rates looking like they might go through the roof, John Howard looks like the best he can offer Australians is a banana monarchy.

Howard has attempted to blame a record 4% inflation rate on the price of Queensland bananas following the devastation to banana growing districts caused by Cyclone Larry. Record inflation will almost certainly place upward pressure on interest rates, causing greater devastation to Australian household economies than Cyclone Larry caused to North Queensland’s banana crop.

With fuel prices continuing to rise and interest rates ready to add an extra few hundred dollars to average monthly repayments, Australians can kiss goodbye their tax cuts from the last budget.

And across the Tasman, NZ Opposition Leader Don Brash’s references to New Zealand’s last budget as “the Bondi budget” won’t be sounding as amusing as when they were first delivered.

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

14 May l986: warns that Australia could become a "banana republic".

25 November 1988: enters a secret pact With Hawke at Kirribilli House in the presence of Sir Peter Abeles and Bill Kelty for a leadership transition after the 1990 election.

4 April 1990: sworn in as deputy prime minister.

29 November 1990: announces that Australia is in the recession Australia "had to have".

7 December 1990: addresses the annual dinner of the parliamentary press gallery, providing Hawke with his justification for reneging on the Kirriblili pact.

23 May 1991: becomes longest serving federal treasurer in Labor Party history, surpassing the 2996-day record of Ben Chifley.

3 June 1991: resigns to the backbench after failing to defeat Bob Hawke in a caucus ballot for the prime ministership, 44-66 votes.

20 December 1991: sworn in as prime minister the day after caucus votes, 56-51, to depose a sitting Labor prime minister.

26 February 1992: delivers the One Nation statement, committing the government to tax cuts as part of a strategy for recovery.

21 April 1992: visits Indonesia in his first overseas trip as prime minister.

18 May 1992: Graham Richardson resigns from cabinet over the Marshall Islands affair.

3 June 1992: the High Court hands down the landmark Mabo decision.

10 December 1992: delivers Redfern speech, acknowledging profound injustice suffered by Australia's indigenous people.

7 February 1993: calls a general election.

13 March 1993: leads Labor to victory over a coalition led by Dr John Hewson.

23 March 1993: John Hewson retains leadership of the Libera1 Party in a contest with John Howard, 47 votes to 30.

21 April 1993: promises far-reaching reform in industrial relations in a speech to the Institute of Company Directors in Melbourne.

28 April 1993: sets out the priorities for the next three years in the Evatt Memorial lecture, saying the principal aim will be to reduce unemployment while focusing on the implications of the High Court Mabo decision and laying out a framework to achieve a republic.

30 April 1953: outlines another aspect of the agenda, proposing a vastly expanded role for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

11 June 1993: principal advisor, John Russell, appointed ambassador to the United States.

18 June 1993: announces legislation to implement thc High Court's Mabo judgement on Aboriginal land title.

22 July 1993: announces the bringing forward of the first round of the One Nation tax cuts to help revive thc economy, but the delaying of the second round until "probably" 1998.

17 August 1993: the federal budget includes a $1.3 billion increase in indirect taxation as part of a deficit-reducing strategy.

22 0ctober 1993: after two months of torturous negotiations, the federal budget is passed.

21 November 1993: leaders of 14 of the world's fastest-growing economies embrace APEC as a "new voice" on the world stage.

17 December 1993: John Dawkins announces his decision to retire for personal reasons.

21 December 1993: declares a "new deal" for Aborigines after Mabo legislation is passed in the Senate.

8 February 1994: announces a roster system for Question Time, under which ministers will appear on two days each week, instead of every Question time.

28 February 1994: Environment and Sports Minister, Ros Kelly, resigns over the so-called "sports rorts" affair after months of criticism over her allocation of $30 million in sports grants.

14 March 1994: Health Minister, Graham Richardson, tells Keating he is about to resign from politics.

24 March 1994: names Dr Carmen Lawrence as Health Minister 12 days after her election to Federal Parliament in a by-election in John Dawkins former seat of Fremantle. The same day Keating reveals that he has sold the half-share in a Hunter Valley piggery that he bought in 1991 while he was on the backbench.

4 May 1994: unveils Working Nation, a $6.5 billion commitment over four years to reduce unemployment, with the aim of achieving 5 per cent unemployment by the turn of the century.

10 May 1994: Ralph Willis delivers his first budget, projecting economic growth of 4.5 per cent and a budget deficit for 1995-96 of $11.7 billion.

23 May 1994: Alexander downer becomes Liberal leader, defeating John Hewson by 43 votes to 36.

14 June 1994: puts the question of the flag on the back burner. He says: "I have got an opinion of the flag, but I don't have a plan for the flag."

26 September 1994: addresses Labor's national conference, saying the government has 'the courage, the love, the labour and the imagination" to lead Australia into the 21st century.

18 0ctober 1994: launches Creative Nation, a cultural policy linking support for the arts to future economic prosperity.

25 0ctober 1994: notches up 25 years service as a federal MP.

15 November 1994: APEC leaders sign the Bogor declaration on free trade, setting the deadline of 2020 for achieving the goal in the Asia-Pacific region.

30 November 1994: national accounts show non-farm growth at 6.4 per cent, making Australia the fastest growing economy in the industrialised world.

14 December 1994: official interest rates are increased for the third time in four months to moderate demand growth and rein in unsustainable growth.

22 December 1994: sets out a timetable to phase-out the export woodchip industry by 2000, after a decision to renew all woodchip licences and increase volume alienates conservationists.

16 January 1995: Ros Kelly resigns from Parliament, citing family reasons, forcing a by-election in her seat of Canberra.

30 January 1995: John Howard becomes Liberal leader after a bloodless handover by Alexander Downer and pledges a new deal for families and a "mainstream" stance on social policy.

25 March 1995: Labor is defeated in the Canberra by-election.

5 May 1995: Richard Court announces a royal commission into the so-called Penny Easton affair, targeting Carmen Lawrence.

9 May 1995: the second Willis budget includes the sale of the governments majority shareholding in the Commonwealth Bank and diverts the money promised for the second round of One Nation tax cuts to superannuation.

7 June 1995: outlines the government's model for a minimalist republic, describing the transition as a "small but highly significant step".

16 October 1995: Dr Don Russell returns to Australia nearly a year early to his former job as Keating's principal advisor.

15 November 1995: the Marks royal commission finds that Carmen Lawrence told untruths about her role in the Easton affair.

19 November 1995: APEC leaders in Osaka agree to a blueprint to advance the Bogor declaration.

18 December 1995: signs an historic security treaty with Indonesia's President Suharto after eighteen months of secret negotiations.

27 February 1996: calls a general election for 2 March.

2 March 1996: is defeated by a Coalition led by John Howard.