February 10, 2004


Listen to these ridiculous people:

Australian actors and audiences have been sold out for wheat and wine, the film and television industry claimed yesterday.

The free trade agreement has cemented fears American films and programs will swamp Australian television, leaving budding local actors no chance to become the future darlings of Hollywood.

So, for the sake of future darlinghood status for a handful of narcissist actroids, we should ditch real industries. Right. At least Queensland Premier Peter Beattie sees the big picture:

It is good for the beef industry, good for dairy, it's good for manufacturing, it's good for a whole lot of other people, and that's fantastic, and it's good for Australia, and I say that up front because I support it.

Posted by Tim Blair at February 10, 2004 11:00 AM

The screwing on sugar is unfortunate, but I'll be writing to my own Senatrixes and Member of Congress urging support -- Australia was there for us and I'll be damned if I don't do my part for Australia.

Posted by: Andrew at February 10, 2004 at 11:16 AM

I saw that first quote "leaving budding local actors no chance to become the future darlings of Hollywood" in the paper this morning, and wondered how people can write that with a straight face - the complaint is that allowing American programs and content will stop Australians being able to go over and work in American programs and content? wtf?
America produces a lot of crap television, as i am sure most americans would agree. So does Australia. They also produce some crap movies, but they also produce some brilliant ones. Australia barely manages that - looking at the roll call of aussie movies recently is depressing. It is because of subsidies and protection that this happens - they are not exposed to *gasp* the market.
Look at the car market (I know actors are not cars - i would like to see toni collette do the 1/4 mile in sub 10 time) - when heavily protected, australia was producing badly built shitmobiles. Due to the evil forces of competition, they are now producing some cars that i would be quite happy to drive, and we are even exporting them. The idea of exporting a mid-70's falcon or commodore to anywhere except tassie would have been a laughable idea.

Posted by: Paul Dub at February 10, 2004 at 11:31 AM

Oh how terrible, how can we survive without such great productions such as "Danny Deckchair 2", or wonderful "Honourable Wally what'shisname".

Oh and the poor sugar farmers who can't compete against the yanks. (what have they really lost).

Sugar farmers - Responsible for some of Australia's greatest ecological disasters re: Cane Toads.

Posted by: Jon at February 10, 2004 at 11:33 AM

Mediocrity flourishes under protectionism. And when I think Toni 'Cosi' Collette and Sigrid 'Prisoner' Thornton, I think mediocrity.

Posted by: Mike Hunt at February 10, 2004 at 11:59 AM

I welcome the reduction of trade barriers between both our countries. Is the agreement perfect? No, it was crafted by men on both sides trying to balance the local politics of both countries. Is the silliness over protecting the US sugar growers anything but stupid? You bet. I, however, expect to buy more and more Aussie wines. As a US citizen, I know who are my friends.

Let's start working on the next round of eliminating trade barriers imediately.

Posted by: Gary B at February 10, 2004 at 12:00 PM

So what, Tim, about this? A born Texan, I have always been fascinated by Australia. That was only augmented when I studied biology. My guess is that you can sell as much to us as we can to you when it comes to the acting and film trades.

Posted by: Janis Gore at February 10, 2004 at 12:07 PM

The reactions I've read in Aussie newspapers are predictable. If the agreement had opened up all the markets they'd be crying what a disaster it would be for industry. Sugar and the Aussie movie industry are just convenient whipping posts. The reality is that most of the critics are against free trade anyway. The last time I looked, Aussie actors and actresses were a pretty hot commodity in LA-LA land.

As an American who imports from Australia this is the best thing that has happened to my business in years.

Yes, Gary B. Let's get on with the next stage as soon as the current election season is over.

Posted by: Rob de Santos at February 10, 2004 at 12:14 PM

With an agreement of such scope you can never expect to satisfy everyone. Can't really blame the "whine industry" for looking after their own interests. But that doesn't mean we have to listen to them.

Posted by: Cruddrick at February 10, 2004 at 12:18 PM

Actually, I always enjoyed the Barry Humphries (sp?) movies that I discovered on video, but then my tastes run toward the lowbrow.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at February 10, 2004 at 12:26 PM

Does this mean that even more Australian wine is going to be imported at quite reasonable prices? Well, then, three cheers for the trade agreement! I've got about two dozen bottles of wine in my wine rack and the majority of it is Australian right now (Yellow Tail and Banrock Station)

Posted by: Jim at February 10, 2004 at 12:28 PM

Have The Wiggles weighed in yet?

Whether it's Mel Gibson, Peter Weir, Nicole Kidman, Naomi Watts, Bryan Brown, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, Heath Ledger, or Hugo Weaving, it would seem to me that Australians have no trouble competing in Hollywood. Sorry about the sugar thing though.

Posted by: charles austin at February 10, 2004 at 12:32 PM

That's OK. Sugar mines are inhumane anyway.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 10, 2004 at 12:34 PM

Where will the next Yahoo Serious come from now?

Posted by: Randal Robinson at February 10, 2004 at 12:43 PM

Owning a (used) Holden Kingswood in a SE Asia country in the early '80s, I got a bit of good-natured flack from Australian colleagues on the rugby pitch and in the Mens' Bar. A neat vehicle - a Chevy Nova (type) with a familiar straight 6 and good power-to-weight ratio - and I had to steer clear of rice rockets and the occasional antique Morris Minor in fear of serious damage - to them all.

A guy finally explained that the car brought to mind a popular Aussie TV series, Kingswood Country, and at a stretch I fit some aspects of the main character. Never saw the program, but understand that it was about three levels below Archie Bunker, and occasionally gross, non-pc etc.

I therefore anticipate with interest a re-run of "Country" - maybe even on PBS (arf!). Bring on that good old Australian video culture.

Posted by: fmisch at February 10, 2004 at 01:09 PM

More Wiggles and Shiraz at lower prices. U.S. Cav's household gives free trade two thumbs up!

Posted by: U.S. Cavalry at February 10, 2004 at 01:23 PM

Plural of Senatrix should be Senatrices.

Posted by: A at February 10, 2004 at 01:45 PM

I don't understand how there can still be an Australian film industry anyway. Weren't we assured that the trade agreement with New Zealand would lead to it's utter destruction? What happened there?

Posted by: Steve at February 10, 2004 at 01:47 PM

You guys still have that rural outlaw motorcycle gang problem that I saw in that documentary, "Mad Max"?

Posted by: Pete at February 10, 2004 at 01:54 PM

Beware Australia! Incredibly vast vegemite deposits have just been discovered in Western Montana. Let the competition begin!

Posted by: Sam at February 10, 2004 at 01:54 PM

Doesn't sound like a perfect free-trade agreement: the long phase-in for beef and wine seems ridiculous, but it's a good start. (I want the good-value Aussie wine). I don't know why the U.S. has any tariffs against Australian goods. They're the best friend we have.

Posted by: jeremiah at February 10, 2004 at 01:56 PM

This means more Wiggles in my house?!! Y'all can have your sugar for free, if you'll give me back my children, you Pied Piper bastards!

And, by the way, what's with the fake corks on your cheaper Shiraz?! It's all a nefarious plot, I tell ya, there's probably listening devices in them plastic corks!

Beware of those from the Land Down Under!!! Oops, this isn't the Democrat Underground... nevermind

Posted by: JFH at February 10, 2004 at 02:15 PM

We have more shit TV here in America than good TV, so any quality influx from Australia is certainly welcome.

Posted by: PC Martin at February 10, 2004 at 02:20 PM

What the hell would Beattie know? he's only an ALP . . . oh, ah,

Send the buggers as much Vegemite as we can. Call me unpatriotic (I did 10 years in the Army) but I can't stand the shit. (Except when used as a baste for Roast Chicken)

With this free trade thing - if I send them my wife will they send me one of the chicks on that three witches show on the tele for free? Please?

Posted by: Razor at February 10, 2004 at 02:20 PM

What about the introduction of DMCA style laws in Australia, and the extension of the copyright term to life + 70 years?

Posted by: Michael at February 10, 2004 at 02:29 PM

PC Martin, you can have our very worst fiction drama serials: Neighbours, Home and Away and The 7:30 Report. Bad acting and bizarre storylines all round. Any resemblance to real life purely coincidental.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 10, 2004 at 02:30 PM

No wonder Latham is trying to emulate Beattie. Eventually that gloss will wear off and the real man will shine through. You know what they say - you cant polish a turd.

Posted by: Rob at February 10, 2004 at 02:41 PM

Ilibcc, you forgot to include Fireflies. Send that lot over to show the Yanks how to put out the western fires. With any luck they'll die a horrible death. We'll take Elvis in exchange.

Posted by: Freddyboy at February 10, 2004 at 02:54 PM

We have sugar farmers here in the USA? I wonder how they are oppressed and/or harming the environment? I need to find me a liberal and ask them.

Posted by: Brent at February 10, 2004 at 03:00 PM

What I found objectionable was the reference to "cultural content." I'm not sure that U.S. TV and cinema has any of that, unless you count the Superbowl half-time show.

Posted by: AST at February 10, 2004 at 03:14 PM

A lot of people in this country pooh-pooh Australian table wines. This is a pity as many fine Australian wines appeal not only to the Australian palate but also to the cognoscenti of Great Britain.

Black Stump Bordeaux is rightly praised as a peppermint flavoured Burgundy, whilst a good Sydney Syrup can rank with any of the world's best sugary wines.

Château Blue, too, has won many prizes; not least for its taste, and its lingering afterburn.

Old Smokey 1968 has been compared favourably to a Welsh claret, whilst the Australian Wino Society thoroughly recommends a 1970 Coq du Rod Laver, which, believe me, has a kick on it like a mule: 8 bottles of this and you're really finished. At the opening of the Sydney Bridge Club, they were fishing them out of the main sewers every half an hour.

Of the sparkling wines, the most famous is Perth Pink. This is a bottle with a message in, and the message is 'beware'. This is not a wine for drinking, this is a wine for laying down and avoiding.

Another good fighting wine is Melbourne Old-and-Yellow, which is particularly heavy and should be used only for hand-to-hand combat.

Quite the reverse is true of Château Chunder, which is an appellation contrôlée, specially grown for those keen on regurgitation; a fine wine which really opens up the sluices at both ends.

Real emetic fans will also go for a Hobart Muddy, and a prize winning Cuivre Reserve Château Bottled Nuit San Wogga Wogga, which has a bouquet like an aborigine's armpit.

Posted by: j.pickens at February 10, 2004 at 03:17 PM

I'll miss getting home, having a beer and perving at Tammin Sursock for a half an hour but apart from that my life will be unchanged.

Posted by: Alex Hidell at February 10, 2004 at 03:22 PM

j.pickens: It's Wagga Wagga. A place in NSW, not unlike Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, or even Walla Walla, Washington. It's "Place of Many Crows" in the local Aboriginal language.

As regards sugar, if Trade was really opened up, the Brazilian sugar industry could supply the whole of the US market, at prices even the Queenslanders would find it hard to match.

Posted by: Alan E Brain at February 10, 2004 at 03:28 PM

I welcome Austrailian TV and movies, provided they come with subtitles...

Posted by: Jerry at February 10, 2004 at 04:10 PM

Hey Jerry, suffer like we have to, trying to understand Black jive talk, Bronx accents, California teen morons,etc etc, without translation. Don't be so insular.

Posted by: Freddyboy at February 10, 2004 at 04:18 PM

j.pickens, had the Monty Python team tasted the comically-named Duck Muck or some of these other impressive Australian reds, the disparaging 'Australian wine sketch' would surely never have been written. But then we've come a long way since 1972.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 10, 2004 at 04:19 PM

Hey J. If you are going to use a Monty Python Sketch, you could at least offer a by line. It's only polite after all. Besides, Cuivre Reserve Château Bottled Nuit San Wagga Wagga have greatly improved their aroma over the years and have it almost to the aroma of a Wharfies jocks. hopefully it will take over from the fabled Californian Pinot noir as the most offensively aroma'ed white on the market at present.

Posted by: Todd at February 10, 2004 at 04:24 PM

The Dukes Of Hazard was filmed in Queensland.

Not a lot of people know this.

Posted by: Kate at February 10, 2004 at 04:57 PM

The Dukes Of Hazard was filmed in Queensland.

Not a lot of people know this.

Posted by: Kate at February 10, 2004 at 04:57 PM

those duke boys!

Posted by: Roscoe.p coltrane at February 10, 2004 at 05:05 PM

I believe the sugar tarrifs are in place to protect the US corn industry. Currently corn syrup is used as a sweetener in a lot of applications that may be supplanted by cane sugar if the tarrif was removed.

Posted by: Jadel at February 10, 2004 at 05:42 PM

Jadel wrote:
I believe the sugar tarrifs are in place to protect the US corn industry. Currently corn syrup is used as a sweetener in a lot of applications that may be supplanted by cane sugar if the tarrif was removed.

I think you might have the cause and effect a little bit wrong there. The US sugar using industry, eg candy makers (or lolly makers, if you like) use corn syrup precisely because it is so much cheaper than sugar thanks to high sugar tariffs. There probably are tariffs on corn too, but I doubt they are stratospherically high like they are for sugar.

Posted by: Troy at February 10, 2004 at 07:21 PM


At the risk of repeating someone else's post outlining the fine contribution of the Phat Phuck (Phillip Adams) to Australia's high-brow cinematic culture, please note that he remains responsible for "the Adventures of Barry McKenzie" and "Kitty and the Bagman"

Perhaps he was young and needed he money - to buy caviar & champagne ...


Posted by: The_GOP_Elephant at February 10, 2004 at 08:35 PM

As I look out the window at the snow-covered street, I'm thinking ahead four or five months, to summer - and to lamb, real Aussie lamb roasting on the Weber, and a glass of tasty Australian shiraz in my hand ... Bring it on! I can't wait!

As for Australian movies, make more like "The Dish" or "Children of the Revolution", and I'll gladly buy them. Can you imagine Hollywood making a movie like "Children", in which a hard-core leftist is portrayed as a raving lunatic? You should live so long.

Posted by: Brown Line at February 10, 2004 at 09:16 PM

Free trade with my Aussie buddies, it's all good to me. Aussie wines, I would say, are on par with our fine California wines and quite delicious. Hell, I even have some vegamite in the kitchen. But I am pissed on the sugar issue. Case and point:

For 70 years, sugar has been one of the most protected U.S. commodities. The federal government has tried to guarantee a minimum price for domestic sugar growers by restricting imports and by buying and storing excess production.

Most of the countries involved in international sugar trade pursue sugar policies that keep their domestic sugar prices sharply lower than those in the United States.

While it is true that most countries have policies that regulate their sugar markets, they often are aimed at protecting or subsidizing consumers rather than just supporting producers. U.S. policy has focused only on ensuring high returns for sugar crop producers at the expense of consumers.

The United States has a long history of sugar protectionism. The domestic price is supported by a preferential tariff rate quota that gives foreign suppliers the same favorable price as domestic suppliers.

Australia has dismantled its tariff protection of the domestic sugar market, leaving domestic prices free to move with changes in world prices. Excess refining capacity has made it a buyer's market for industrial users.

This is also why when one looks at the ingredients on a can or bottle of soda in the US (such a Coke, Pepsi, Mt. Dew) the sweetener used is "high fructose corn syrup" instead of sugar.

The result is that sugar in the United States costs about two to three times more than it does on the world market. This forces American consumers to cough up billions of dollars more for sugar-based products every year.

But it also affects industries that use sugar. Kraft Inc., the parent company of Lifesavers, reckons that it will save about $26 million a year by relocating to Quebec - more than half of it from lower sugar costs. After all, it's cheaper to produce the product there and transport it into the US under NAFTA.

Simply put, this costs the US jobs, tax revenue, and squeezes yet more money of the consumer for NO REASON.

Let's face it, parts of the world are better suited for certain crops. If sugar is cheaper made elsewhere, then so be it.

Sadly, the few families than control sugar production in the US are very well connected politically. This has cost the American consumer billions (if not TRILLIONS) of dollars over the last seven decades and will likely continue for the next seven.

Bottom line: Protectionism sucks ass.

Just a perspective from a sugar fiend.


Posted by: gogman at February 10, 2004 at 09:26 PM

As a neighbor of the Florida Everglades, I would be quite happy to see big sugar compete on a fair basis in the open market. Maybe then we could export the ecological damage that sugar growers are doing here at home.

Posted by: brb at February 10, 2004 at 11:00 PM

I recently bought some Aussie wine - Yellow-Tail, I think it was. Pretty good. I'm looking forward to tasting a variety of your wines.

Posted by: rabidfox at February 11, 2004 at 05:37 AM

Corn syrup is disgusting! It also provokes allergic reactions in a lot of people. I look forward to the day when I can put Australian sugar in my coffee. In the meantime, I plan to eat as much Australian lamb as I can get. Just doing my bit for free trade! :-)

Posted by: Mary in LA at February 11, 2004 at 06:53 AM

The reason all those fine Australian actors, directors, cinematogrophers etc etc are doing so well in Hollywood and around the world is that there is an Australian TV and movie industry for them to start and get their training in. There will be no such industry left if we are flooded with cheap American TV without requiring the retention of some Australian content by law. That is a simple fact, and all the rest is just bullshit.
Now you might not care if we don't have an Australian presence on the international stage, but as someone who is living overseas at present, I can tell you that the prestige and recognition it brings our country is incalculable. And, isn't there some importance to be attached to seeing ourselves and our culture reflected on our screens just some of the time, rather than an endless diet of American pap? And make no mistake at all, that is what we will get - the economic imperative is simply too strong.

Posted by: Richard at February 11, 2004 at 07:28 AM

Look, at least you can say with a straight face that Australia has - or perhaps has had - a film industry. I think a legacy of films ranging from Picnic At Hanging Rock to Mad Max would do any decent mid-sized island nation proud.

Hell, I'm from Canada, where we're less than a fucking ocean away from Hollywood - share a fucking border with the Yanks, fr chrissakes - and we've never produced anything near as good. Some decent middling stuff, and a lot of arty crap. (Look - I'm a film critic; I'm saying this from hard-bitten experience.)

And it's a lot cheaper for Canadians who get experience in our (gov't subsidized) film industry to relocate southward. You can drive from Vancouver to L.A. in less than a day - try doing the same thing from Perth or SIdney in your leased Corolla, mate.

Posted by: rick mcginnis at February 11, 2004 at 09:08 AM

It won't happen Richard.

The same argument was put forward when foreign content rules were relaxed for the advertising industry by the Australian Broadcasting Authority in 1992 allowing up to 20% foreign advertising on Australian screens (interestingly, New Zealand advertising is regarded as Australian).

Agencies, writers, artists, production houses, media buyers and others predicted the death of their jobs and the advertising industry. Further, since many of these sectors make much of their living from commercial advertising, the death of the film industry itself was also predicted.

It didn't happen then and it won't happen now, apart from a little cleaning out of the dross, an improvement in production standards and a tightening of the margins meaning lower advertising costs and ultimately cheaper goods for you, the consumer. Just all the usual benefits of competition. Meaning any local content that is lost wasn't up to it in the first place.

Incidentally, foreign advertising is running at around 3%, nowhere near 20% - a good argument for complete deregulation.

Bring on the level playing field.

Posted by: ilibcc at February 11, 2004 at 09:40 AM

quiero ver imagenes del pooh

Posted by: ana julie sillas at February 13, 2004 at 01:25 PM