As a trading nation we understand that it is in our best interests to engage with the rest of the world and enjoy the benefits of open trade. We sell our wheat, wool, coal, iron ore, gas, services and manufactured goods to the rest of the world. They sell their goods to us.
There is no doubt it delivers benefits - we can now purchase a TV set or a computer for less than we could 20 years ago. It has also been the source of enormous pressure on industry business and workers as industry restructures to deal with international competition - particularly here in the Illawarra.
That’s why we need strong rules to ensure we have fair trade. Our anti-dumping laws are part of that. Dumping goods into Australian markets at below cost to destroy jobs and businesses is not free trade; it is not fair trade; it is cheating.
Labor has just upgraded our anti-dumping laws to make them amongst the toughest in the world. The imposition of tariffs for those who breaking the rules, stronger protection for Australian industry and more money and staff to Customs to enforce the rules.
These measures are welcomed by Australian manufacturers, including the largest manufacturer in the Illawarra - BlueScope in Port Kembla - and the Australian Steel Institute.
Manufacturing still employs over one million Australians - far more than mining. So it is still an important source of jobs for local workers. As the Australian dollar makes it hard for local businesses to compete on price, that task is impossible when competitors break the rules.
Some argue that the imposition of a tariff in response to dumping is a retreat to protectionism, that anti-dumping laws prop up inefficient industries.
Others go further and argue that if another company or country is willing to subsidise Australian consumers by selling us goods which are heavily subsidised or at below cost then we should grab it with both hands.
This is short-sighted. Importing goods at below cost may provide some short-term windfalls for some consumers but at the price of long term headwinds for open trade – the factory worker who loses his job, the farmer who loses access to a local market will turn their sights on a bigger target, the whole system of open trade itself. A point the Productivity Commission, the major critic of industry protection, accepted in its 2009 Review of Australia’s Anti-Dumping laws.
Our commitment to open trade means we are able to buy more with our pay packet than we could 10 years ago. It does not mean that we can be seen as a soft touch for those who break the rules.
That’s why these new measures are good news for Australian jobs and manufacturing in the Illawarra.
Stephen Jones is the Federal Member for Throsby.