A deal will be set at a land rate around $600 per square metre, suggesting a price near $52 million, but neither company would confirm details.
Mobil said it was cleaning up the land under an Environment Protection Authority remediation plan. “As such, we sought expressions of interest from parties who intend to develop this land,” the company said.
“Mobil is currently managing a tender process for the development of our parcel of land.”
Time & Place controls a diverse development portfolio ranging from residential and commercial office projects to retail and industrial subdivisions.
Founded by Tim Price, the platform is no stranger to Melbourne’s western industrial market, where it currently has several developments in progress. Mr Price would not comment on the transaction.
Two months ago, it sealed an acquisition with ASX-listed logistics operator Qube Holdings to take over a large 137,000-square-metre property in Francis Street, Brooklyn, for $65 million.
Just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the group sold a large office project in East Melbourne on Victoria Parade for $330 million in a fund-through arrangement to Singapore-based ARA Asset Management.
Along with joint venture partner Jeff Xu’s Golden Age Group, it will manage that development through to completion.
Mobil’s bill for remediation of the Spotswood site is likely to run into millions of dollars, chewing up a significant portion of funds the company will net from the transaction.
The fuel refiner began remediation of the site in 2014, razing the above-ground petro-chemical infrastructure and removing piping, storage tanks, warehouses and office buildings.
The visibility of the high-volume storage tanks to many thousands of commuters crossing the 2.5-kilometre West Gate Bridge was a reminder of the inner west’s fast-changing industrial past.
The property is listed on the EPA’s latest polluted sites register, meaning it is subject to a legally enforceable clean-up or pollution abatement notice.
The freshly cleared land in Simcock Avenue, just a few kilometres from the city’s shipping docks, is likely to be carved up into smaller industrial allotments, developed with warehouse offices and sold or leased to multiple users.
Time & Place is completing a 16.7-hectare Williams Point industrial development in Maddox Road in Williamstown North this year and has another 21.5-hectare site at 16 – 36 Dohertys Road, Laverton North, under construction.
Simon Johanson is a business journalist at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
This year’s annual Dreamtime match between Richmond and Essendon will be played in Darwin, the first time the game has been staged outside the MCG.
The match will take place on August 22 as part of the round 13 fixture, with the rest of the matches in the dedicated Sir Doug Nicholls Round to be announced next week.
The 16th Dreamtime match is being moved from the MCG because of Victoria’s coronavirus wave, which has forced all clubs out of the state.
And more matches could be hosted in Darwin, as the AFL continues to schedule fixtures within government COVID-19 restrictions.
“Dreamtime is a highly significant game for both Richmond and Essendon, and a major event on the AFL calendar,” Richmond chief executive Brendon Gale said.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the game was “coming home” and paid credit to the Territory’s coronavirus response as the reason for the game being held in the Top End.
“Footy is coming to Rioli and Long country,” he said in a statement.
“This is the first time the Dreamtime game between Richmond and Essendon will be played outside Melbourne. But in a way, it feels like it is coming home.
“Territorians have been the best in the nation. You have made the Territory the safest in the nation.
“And in a few weeks, the eyes of the nation will look to the Territory as we celebrate the extraordinary contribution of Indigenous Australians — including so many Territorians — to our national game.”
The Sir Doug Nicholls Round will take on added significance this season, which marks the 25th anniversary of the AFL’s introduction of its Discrimination and Racial and Religious Vilification Act.
“This act clearly signalled that racial and religious vilification would no longer be tolerated in Australian football,” AFL social policy and inclusion manager Tanya Hosch said.
“We continue to prioritise an inclusive environment for all people within the industry and focus on identifying strategies targeted at the prevention of vilification before it occurs.
“Through the hard work and dedication of our playing group, past and present, community leaders and industry leaders, we’re able to collectively work towards a future with no racism in our game.”
A major national sporting code keen for a slice of $150 million earmarked for female changing rooms was assured the program would not be used in an election cash splash, only to see most of it splurged on swimming pools in Coalition-held seats.
A sports organisation asked the Government if the Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream grants would be “utilised pre-election”
The organisation was told guidelines needed to be developed before grant applications would be considered
Days later the Coalition made promises funded by the program and guidelines were never developed
The ABC can reveal that just a day before Prime Minister Scott Morrison called last year’s federal election, the sports organisation sought assurances that the Female Facilities and Water Safety Stream (FFWSS) program would not be used in the campaign.
Sure enough, it received that assurance from the office of Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who oversaw the infrastructure portfolio.
Mr McCormack’s chief of staff Damian Callachor told the code that before any grant applications could be considered, “guidelines” had to be developed.
Mr Callachor also told the sport executive the “nature and size” of the sports program meant “governance and other matters” had to be first established.
But days after this email exchange, obtained by the ABC, the Coalition set about making 41 promises funded by the program, nearly exhausting the four-year program’s funding within five weeks.
This is despite there being no guidelines for the FFWSS program, no tenders, and no application process.
And of the $120 million pledged on pools, half went to just two Liberal-held seats — the ultra-marginal Corangamite, which Liberal Sarah Henderson ultimately lost to Labor in the election, and the marginal WA seat of Pearce, which Attorney-General Christian Porter retained.
The FFWSS program, which was meant to complement the scandal-plagued community sports grants program, has been dubbed “sports rorts on steroids” by federal Labor.
But at the time of the program’s launch, major sporting codes had no reason to think it was different to any other federal funding stream.
In April last year, before the election campaign started, one of the codes sought some clarification about the newly established program.
The ABC obtained the email exchange through Freedom of Information. The identity of the sports executive has been redacted.
The executive emailed Mr Callachor, along with the Prime Minister’s sports adviser Chris Daffey and Rebecca Johnson, then an adviser of former sports minister Bridget McKenzie.
“Hi Daff, Damian & Bec,” the April 10 email began.
“Please see attached a spreadsheet of priority projects in each state and territory that may be deemed eligible for funding under the Female Changeroom Fund announced in last week’s Budget.
“Note that some of the projects listed focus purely on change rooms and pavilions, while others are looking to develop state and regional centres/sites that include universal facilities.”
The ABC understands the executive worked for Cricket Australia — although the organisation has declined to confirm or deny that.
The email exchange shows Mr Callachor was first to respond, 13 minutes later, at 12:23pm:
“Appreciate the list, very helpful and comprehensive!” Mr Callachor wrote back.
“The Government will be establishing guidelines for this new program in due course, so we will be in touch following the election.”
The sports executive emailed back at 12:50pm:
“Thanks for this info, Damian. Is the intention therefore that the fund won’t be utilised pre-election?”
Whether he had become suspicious about the program’s potential use is not clear in the email exchange, but Mr Callachor’s response came 38 minutes later:
“A program of this nature and size needs appropriate guidelines, governance and other matters lined up before we can open it to industry to apply for funding. Cheers, Damian.”
Program to ‘support women’s participation in sport’
The very next day, April 11, Mr Morrison visited the Governor-General requesting he dissolve Parliament for a May 18 election.
And within a few days, the first of 41 projects funded under the FFWSS began being announced by election candidates.
Some recipients did not even know they had been given money until they saw it in the local media.
The Surf Coast Shire Council, which is in the Victorian electorate of Corangamite, only discovered it would receive $20 million to build an Olympic-sized pool at Torquay when reported in the Geelong Advertiser on April 15 — five days after Mr Callachor’s assurances.
Mr Morrison described the purpose of the FFWSS program when he launched it alongside Senator McKenzie at a press conference in Penrith on March 30 last year.
“The principal objective of that is to ensure that there are changing facilities and other facilities to support more girls and women’s participation in sport all around the country,” Mr Morrison said.
Senator McKenzie said she wanted to spare women having to get “changed in cars”.
“We’ve got people getting changed behind towels, we’ve got worse still, young women and girls after their games leaving the club, heading home to have a shower and get changed and not bothering to come back,” she said.
Guidelines a ‘framework for delivery, not selection’
No guidelines were ever developed for the FFWSS, despite the Infrastructure Department stating in its incoming brief to Government last year that guidelines would be delivered by June last year.
The Department of Health, which was transferred responsibility for the program from Infrastructure last August, said delivery of the projects funded under FFWSS program would be in keeping with the Community Development Grant (CDG) guidelines.
“This decision was based on consideration that many of the projects had similar characteristics between the two programs,” a spokesman said.
“The guidelines provided the framework for delivery, not selection.”
As for whether any unspent funds in the FFWSS would be reallocated or dispersed, the Department told the ABC: “This is a decision for the Government.”
Mr Callachor did not respond to questions from the ABC. Cricket Australia declined to make a comment.
Mr McCormack’s spokeswoman told the ABC the program was “delivering election commitments made by the Government in the lead-up to and in the 2019 election”.
“In the same way the Labor Party would have required a mechanism to deliver their election commitments, which included pools and change rooms, if they won last year’s election,” the minister’s spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Christian Porter said the Attorney-General “makes no apologies for advocating successfully on behalf of the people of Pearce for much-needed infrastructure projects such as the Ellenbrook and Alkimos pools,” adding that both projects had enjoyed bipartisan support before the election.
“In fact, Bill Shorten stood in Ellenbrook in November 2018 and committed $17 million to an Ellenbrook pool,” the spokesman said.
“In his press release from that day, Mr Shorten noted that Ellenbrook was one of the fastest-growing communities in the country and said, ‘… Parents shouldn’t have to drive 20km to make sure their kids can learn to swim.'”
He said the local council and state Labor politicians had also campaigned hard to make the facility a reality for many years.
Last month, Mr De Olizeara moved into his own self-contained flat in Footscray after social housing non-profit Unison transformed a dilapidated apartment block into 54 new affordable and modern units.
The development, partially funded by the state government, was designed with a focus on residents’ wellbeing, safety and quality of life, with on-site support staff, plenty of natural light, good airflow and energy efficiency.
“I feel like I’m in a five-star hotel,” Mr De Olizeara said. “I’ve got lots of space. I’m very happy where I am.”
Unison builds housing for the state’s most vulnerable people, with each of its units’ residents on a priority category of the Victorian Housing Register, meaning they have been homeless or were at risk of homelessness.
Acting chief executive James King said the organisation had made a shift to self-contained units based on RMIT research that found many of its rooming house tenants were unhappy and received poor outcomes.
“We’re really, really pleased with the outcome [at the Footscray development]. The finish, we think, it sets a very high standard,” he said.
“Some of [the residents] were in tears with what they now have to call their home.”
Residents include 16 women referred by McAuley Community Services, which also has on-site services including support for women who have experienced family violence.
Another 16 residents were previously living in Unison’s run-down rooming houses, including Mr De Olizeara, who lived in one after leaving the private facility.
The Unison Housing Research Lab, a collaboration with RMIT’s Urban Housing and Homelessness department, released a report last year examining tenancy loss in the organisation’s housing.
The report– Who Stays, Who Leaves?– found tenants moved out of rooming houses at much faster rates than people in long-term social housing.
After 18 months, only 41 per cent of rooming house residents were living in the same location, whereas almost two-thirds of those in long-term housing stayed put.
Professor Guy Johnson said tension was often high in common areas at rooming houses, and residents had no control or privacy, causing damage to their mental and physical health.
He said COVID-19 added a new level of worry for residents having to share facilities.
Although Mr De Olizeara had to share some facilities at the Unison rooming house, he was provided with his own small kitchen and bathroom.
He stayed for nine years before all the residents were moved to the new development in June.
“They move from such terrible circumstances to such marvellous circumstances that they really appreciate and enjoy the new form of living, so they tend to make it home and stay there,” Professor Johnson said.
Victoria’s public housing shot to national attention just weeks ago when 3000 residents in estates in North Melbourne and Flemington were placed under a hard lockdown as COVID-19 spread through some of the nine towers.
It highlighted the dangers of overcrowding and the state’s chronic shortage of public housing, with experts estimating Victoria would need to build 6000 homes a year to match demand.
Mr King urged the government to implement a spot purchasing program, similar to one that was part of the stimulus package under the Rudd government during global financial crisis, under which Unison acquired almost 900 apartments.
“There has been an underinvestment by the state government. They’re trying to think of where those individuals can live, but the stock just simply isn’t there,” Mr King said.
“Along with the end of JobKeeper [and] the end of the eviction moratorium, there is going to be the perfect storm for a homelessness crisis if something urgently isn’t done.”
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All Blacks coach Ian Foster has suggested Australia does not deserve equal rights in any potential trans-Tasman rugby union competition, saying there is no room for non-competitive teams.
Ian Foster questioned whether Australia has the player depth and financial strength to field more than two or three teams
Rugby Australia does not want a reduction in the number of its teams in a potential trans-Tasman competition
NZ Rugby is expected to propose a competition model this week
Foster is the latest high-profile rugby figure to add his voice to the debate about what a trans-Tasman provincial competition may look like in future seasons.
Findings from NZ Rugby’s review into a future competition structure will be made public on Thursday, with its recommendation expected to feature all five New Zealand franchises in an eight-team competition.
Only two or three Australian sides are likely in the preferred model, with a Pacific Islands team possibly introduced.
But that won’t be happening, according to tournament boss Craig Tiley, who is continuing to plan for six different scenarios ranging from a worst-case broadcast-only event, to as close to business as usual as possible with strict biosecurity measures in place.
“Nothing has changed for us in terms of our planning,” Tiley told AAP.
“The environment around us has changed, and will continue to change, as we’ve seen with the current spike in Victoria.
“So I’m confident we will run the Australian Open in Melbourne and other events around Australia in January and we’re working closely with all our authorities on the regulations regarding mass gatherings, physical distancing and increased hygiene that are being put in place.”
Melbourne Park the only option in Australia
The reality is, Melbourne Park and its 2km precinct — housing not only state-of-the-art tennis facilities but also a plethora of bars and entertainment hubs — is the only location in Australia equipped to stage a grand slam event.
A total of 33 courts are used during the tournament, including three with retractable roofs, with an additional 18 available at nearby venues.
World tennis’s biggest names and their entourages enjoy a four-storey player pod with gyms, medical and treatment rooms, ice baths, warm-up facilities, change rooms, a beauty bar, concierge and transport reception.
“All this will be in one self-contained area, which will be crucial in COVID times,” Tiley said.
As well as Rod Laver Arena, with a capacity for 15,000 spectators, the National Tennis Centre has four other show courts seating between 3,000 and 11,500 fans.
Sydney, meanwhile, has nine match courts, with one roof still being completed on Ken Rosewall Arena, plus six practice courts, smaller change rooms and dining facilities.
Pat Rafter Arena, which has 5,500 seats but only a floating roof, is one of 23 ITF-standard courts in Brisbane.
The venue’s capacity is for around 10,000 fans, nowhere near the numbers that can be accommodated in Melbourne, which boasts a record daily attendance of 93,709.
So the biggest event on the annual Australian sporting calendar will only go ahead in January in Melbourne, Tiley said.
“The US Open and the French Open are exploring mandatory testing, varying levels of quarantine and limiting entourages,” he said.
“Of course we are looking at all these options, and more, as part of our scenario planning.
“It’s difficult to predict exactly what will need to be in place as guidelines and protocols are changing week by week, and sometimes even day by day.”
The risk of playing tournaments during coronavirus has been exposed when multiple players and coaches were infected during the Adria Cup tournament in the Balkans, organised by men’s world number one, Novak Djokovic.
Just when Victorians thought they were moving onto greener pastures from the peak of the pandemic, the state has today been placed under strict new restrictions amid a second spate of the coronavirus.
The state now has a total of 2231 confirmed COVID-19 cases, after it recorded 73 new infections in Victoria’s highest ever single-day increase in virus cases acquired through community transmission.
Stage three coronavirus restrictions were implemented at 11.59pm last night, with the more than 310,000 residents who occupy the 10 hotspot postcodes only able to leave the house for four reasons. They are: exercise, food, caregiving and work/school.
• 3064 (Craigieburn, Donnybrook, Mickleham, Roxburgh Park and Kalkallo).
The measures will be in place until at least July 29, with fears the rest of Victoria is also headed for the same restrictions as case numbers continue to spike.
Hundreds of police descended on the neighbourhoods under stay at home orders last night with amped up patrols expected over the next few weeks, while supermarket shelves are again being ravaged for essentials including toilet paper.
Acting chief medical officer Paul Kelly said residents caught out and about without a valid reason would be transported back home in a booze bus.
If caught people could face an on-the-spot fine of $1652, with businesses risking penalties of up to $100,000 if they ignore the rules.
Police Minister Lisa Neville said officers will be out enforce ensuring the rules are being followed.
“They‘ll have mobile teams, so they’ll be pulling up people randomly,” she told Nine.
“They‘ll look at things like on and off ramps at arterial roads, so using a booze bus type model where you pull people over, check where they’re going in, why are they going in, why are they leaving.
“They‘ll be at transport hubs – who’s getting on the transport system and why they’re doing that.”
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews yesterday said he was fearful of a statewide shutdown, as he urged the community to take restrictions seriously.
“If we don‘t get control of this really quickly we will end up with … a whole state shutdown,” he told 3AW.
“This is not over. This is so wildly infectious that even minor breaches of the rules can lead to this random movement of the virus around the community.”
The Premier also told The Project last night he was disheartened about the number of people refusing tests as health officials embark on a door-to-door testing blitz in the affected suburbs.
City mayors and state governors across the US are imposing stricter curfews as street protests and looting continue a week after the death of black man George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
As the nation deals with millions of demonstrators, here’s a look at some of the finer details around the curfews.
So, what exactly is a curfew?
US cities want residents to stay indoors at night — mainly to stop protests turning violent but also to keep people safe — so they are imposing a temporary law, or curfew, on when people can freely move around their neighbourhood or city.
Mostly these are at night, when most people would be sleeping, although some cities have taken the extraordinary step to impose them from mid-afternoon.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said his city’s curfew was meant to “increase safety for demonstrators, law enforcement and all citizens of Los Angeles”.
Those breaking curfew will be hit with huge fines and possible imprisonment, but those penalties differ from state to state.
But not everyone is happy about the curfews.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois has publicly denounced Chicago’s indefinite curfew, saying it had trapped people in the Loop — the central business district of the city and the main section of Downtown Chicago.
“The Mayor’s summary announcement of a potentially indefinite curfew tonight for the entire City — with hundreds of people trapped in the Loop — raises serious constitutional questions that need to be remedied,” said ACLUI executive director Colleen Connell.
“Any curfew must be limited to the specific places in the City where there is imminent threat of danger or harm, not the entire City. “The broad and vague nature of this order — and the suggestion that it is indefinite in time — invites arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
“We encourage the Mayor to rethink this strategy immediately. The ACLU of Illinois is exploring all options including litigation.”
On social media, many people were unhappy about the early curfew imposed in Los Angeles giving residents little notice.
These are the cities imposing curfews in the US right now
George Floyd died in the Minnesota city of Minneapolis and Governor Tim Walz announced on Monday in the US he had signed an executive order to extend the state’s curfew for two more days in that city and St Paul.
The curfew will run from 10:00pm to 4:00am.
Breaking curfew is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail, according to the city of Minneapolis.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a two-day curfew beginning at 7:00pm Monday evening, Washington DC time.
According to CNN, Ms Bowser said on Sunday that protesters had the right to exercise the First Amendment — which allowed freedom of assembly and speech — but they should not “destroy our city” in the process.
Curfew violators face 10 days in jail or a $300 fine.
A curfew will be in effect in the central US city until further notice between 9:00pm and 6:00am. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said essential workers were exempt from the directions.
Police can issue a $500 fine to those out after 9:00pm.
On Monday night, New Yorkers were given until 11:00pm to get home and stay there, but ongoing violence has meant the city’s curfew will now start at 8:00pm Tuesday night.
The curfew lifts at 5:00am.
Monday was the first time the city has instituted a curfew during the unrest following George Floyd’s death a week ago.
Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also announced the New York City Police Department would double its police presence to help prevent violence and property damage.
If you break the curfew in New York, you’ll be jailed for up to 90 days.
The 12-hour overnight curfew in Los Angeles was the harshest the city had seen since the riots of 1992, which followed the acquittal of police officers accused of using excessive force in the beating of Rodney King, according to Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore.
No-one can walk around that city between 6:00pm and 6:00am.
Those who break curfews in cities across California could face up to six months in jail, $1,000 fine, or both.
Beverly Hills, Santa Monica
Elsewhere in the state of California, CNN reported that curfews in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica would start at 1:00pm on Tuesday for business districts and 4:00pm in the rest of the city.
San Francisco was under a curfew on Monday night and Mayor London Breed said the restrictions would remain “until we see that the situation is under control”.
San Francisco Police Department Police Chief Bill Scott said Sunday’s protests started peacefully but the violence escalated and two officers were assaulted.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney extended a citywide curfew for the third straight night on Monday from 6:00pm to 6:00am.
Only those with essential duties will be allowed outdoors during the curfew time.
Fines ofup to $500 apply if broken.
The curfew in Atlanta was also extended for a third night between 9:00pm and sunrise.
Police will issue warnings to anyone not complying and arrests may be made.
Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Sydney tonight as protests against police brutality reach Australia.
Protesters have been filing into Martin Place, in the city’s CBD, after marching from Hyde Park. The US consulate general is located on the major thoroughfare close to Circular Quay and the NSW parliament.
The demonstration follows days of protests in the US over the death of black man George Floyd who perished in the city of Minneapolis after a police officer held him down by placing his knee on his throat.
“Black Lives Matter” banners and the Aboriginal flag were hoisted during the march which is estimated to be at least 500 strong. The demonstration has been peaceful.
“I think its cool that the cops aren’t trying to kill us right now, running us over with SUVs or horses,” said one man on Channel 7.
Earlier today footage emerged of an indigenous teenager having his legs kicked out from beneath him as he was arrested in the city.
Police are investigating after the 16-year-old was taken to hospital with minor injuries following his arrest in a Surry Hills park on Monday. But Assistant Commissioner Mick Willing wants to ensure the incident isn’t turned into “something it’s not”.
The teenager had allegedly told a male police officer “I’ll crack you in the f**king jaw, bro” before he was thrown to the ground. He was subsequently released without charge.
The arrest was captured on a mobile phone with the footage later posted on social media.
After being threatened, the officer can be seen telling the teenager to turn around and put his hands behind his back.
He then kicks the young man’s legs out from beneath him and handcuffs him face down on the ground.
A female officer is seen holding down the teen’s legs.
A bystander can be heard yelling “You just slammed him on his face. He’s in pain”.
NSW Police on Tuesday said the professional standards command was investigating and the constable involved had been placed on restricted duties.
“We’re all aware of incidents that have taken place in the United States over the past week and we’re aware of the sensitivities around what’s occurring overseas,” Mr Willing told reporters on Tuesday.
“Am I concerned about what I’m seeing in the footage? Absolutely. But I’m equally concerned about others who may use the footage to inflame it and turn it into something it’s not.” Mr Willing said the constable had used a “leg sweep” during the arrest and the police investigation would examine whether the use of force was appropriate in the circumstances.
Tristan Field, a Gadigal man (the land much of Sydney is situated on) who spoke at the Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney on Tuesday evening, said he wasn’t surprised by the Surry Hills incident. “When I was a kid I got harassed by the police. I remember what it was like to live in fear and I know what it’s like to be scared that you might die,” the 26-year-old told AAP.
Mr Field said Australians needed to know more about the history of indigenous deaths in custody “then we can worry about what’s happening in the United States”.
So, what has China done and why? What will it mean for the thousands of barley farmers with crops in the ground? And how do tariffs work?
What has China done?
In November 2018, China announced an investigation into whether the Australian government was unfairly subsidising our barley producers or whether they had engaged in “dumping”.
Dumping is said to occur when exports are sold at a price below “normal” value, giving foreigners an unfair advantage against domestic producers.
The implication is that a nation is “dumping” its surplus product in a way that is against the spirit of free trade. However, countries often use the allegation as a guise to protect their local producers from cheaper imports.
Dumping is not illegal but the World Trade Organisation has guidelines about the practice. Most countries – including Australia – have “anti-dumping” processes by which governments can deem a foreign country to be engaging in unfair dumping and impose a tax on those goods to level the playing field for domestic producers.
China also makes the case that the Australian government gives unfair subsidies to our farmers, including drought support and the diesel fuel rebate.
Despite prolonged consultation with Australian farmers and our government, China’s Ministry of Commerce has decided to apply a “countervailing duty” on barley imports from Australia.
What’s a “countervailing duty”?
It’s a tariff, by any other name. What’s a tariff? Essentially a tax imposed by a government on goods or services imported from other countries. They are there to protect domestic suppliers – and jobs – from competition.
Tariffs were cut back dramatically during the reform era of the 1970s and 1980s. Economists don’t like tariffs because they artificially allow less productive firms to survive, when those resources – of people and capital – would be better deployed doing other more productive things, which would produce higher investment returns and wages.
Tariffs also mean consumers pay higher prices on imported goods because the businesses that import the goods have to fork out for the tariff and tend to pass on the cost to consumers.
Another effect of tariffs is that consumers end up with less diversity in the products available to them because foreign producers don’t bother trying to market their goods in a country if they know their goods won’t be priced competitively. Instead, consumers tend to get whatever domestic producers make.
Much effort has been expended internationally through multilateral and, more recently, bilateral free-trade agreements to try to get rid of such taxes on trade.
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner. We sent $63 billion worth of iron ore to China in 2018-19, $17 billion of natural gas and $14 billion of coal.
Of agricultural goods, beef is our biggest export to China, earning $9.5 billion, followed by non-beef meat ($5.2 billion), wool ($3.8 billion) and wheat ($3.7 billion).
Barley appears in 12th place on the list of our biggest agricultural, forestry and fisheries exports to China in 2018-19, earning $1.38 billion in that year, sitting below wine, cotton, fruit, sugar and wood.
Australian barley producers have become particularly reliant on China in recent years, partly because of a concerted trade push to that nation, and partly because China tends to pay high prices. Some Australian farmers have bred types of barley specially suited to the Chinese market.
China’s share of our barley exports has risen from about 30 per cent a decade ago to between 60 per cent and 70 per cent, according to figures from the Department of Agriculture.
Just over 2.5 million tonnes of Australian barley was shipped to China in 2018-19, about 700,000 tonnes to Japan, 370,000 tonnes to Thailand, 350,000 to Vietnam and 100,000 to South Korea. This includes malting barley used for beer production and lower grade barley used for animal feedstock.
But China is the world’s largest producer and consumer of beer and it sources its barley from a wide range of countries. By targeting Australian barley, China can make its point while also targeting a good for which its own domestic beer producers have other sources of supply.
What happens after the tariff is imposed?
China’s decision is effective immediately. Some grain already on ships may be exempt. But it is unlikely Chinese importers will choose to buy much more Australian barley now that the price has effectively doubled. They will import from other countries.
Australia’s barley exporters will try to sell their grain to other countries, mostly other south-east Asian nations, but they are likely to be forced to accept a lower price, given they suddenly have fewer potential buyers.
Farmers who have barley in the ground will suffer a financial loss – which the industry bodies representing the growers estimate at half a billion dollars a year.
Ultimately, farmers who survive will be forced to sow other crops to sustain a living.
Why has China done this?
Some commentators have linked the timing of this announcement to Australia’s advocacy of an inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. It’s not possible to know exactly what the Chinese motivation is.
But trade observers say China is playing a much longer game and the real grievance is Australian duties charged on Chinese steel imports.
“We slap massive anti-dumping duties on steel and aluminium. It’s retaliation for that,” says Stephen Kirchner, the program director of trade at the University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre.
It’s true that Australia imposes its own “countervailing duties” on a wide range of imports, from Thai pineapples to Italian tinned tomatoes, in a bid to support our homegrown versions. Industries seeking protection from import competition apply to the Anti-Dumping Commission, which decides what level of duty to impose.
Kirchner says there has been bipartisan support from both sides of politics in recent years for ramping up such “anti-dumping” duties.
Despite Australia’s free-trade agreement with China, large duties of about 140 per cent still apply to Chinese steel and aluminium products, including pipes imported to Australia. Industries with production facilities and employing workers in politically sensitive seats have proven particularly effective in lobbying the Australian government for such protections.
What can the Australian government do?
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has downplayed the possibility of retaliatory tariffs on Chinese goods imported to Australia.
It is likely Australia would, after a prolonged investigation, win any appeal. But, while the tariff is to run for five years, the damage to farm incomes will already have been done.
And Kirchner warns that going to the WTO over barley would open the way for China to lodge counter-objections to Australian anti-dumping duties on Chinese steel.
“I think if we took them to the WTO they would probably lose the case. The problem is, I think, this is actually a carefully laid trap.”
However, the barley industry argues China could bring action against steel duties at any time, and is urging the federal government to act by taking China to the WTO.
One thing is clear: the global trade wars that erupted with Trump’s presidency and engulfed the world last year have finally arrived on Australia’s doorstep. At a time of heightened economic uncertainty, policy makers will need to tread carefully.
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Jessica Irvine is a senior economics writer with The Sydney Morning Herald.