Rarely a day goes past in Australia without at least one media organisation publishing recent polls showing a significant increase in support for One Nation, the Australian political party, that has built its popularity around anti-Islamic rhetoric and policies. Some reports focus attention on the growing support for One Nation in traditional conservative heartlands dominated by the Liberal and National parties, particularly the latter. National Party heartland is rural and regional Australia. Areas dominated by major export industries including minerals, gas and agricultural products.
Smart politicians know that a country can only grow its national wealth through international trade. Trade conducted within a country simply shifts the value from one internal area to another. And when an exporter loses income it also indirectly impacts on other industries and businesses in the town or region that derive income from doing business with the exporter. Export income spent in one area therefore benefits all, not just other businesses.
In 2016, in the top 15 export destinations for Australian goods and services were
1. India (number 5) with $7.6 billion (4%)
2. Singapore (number 10) with $4.3 billion (2.2%)
3. Indonesia (number 11) with $4 billion (2.1%)
4. United Arab Emirates (number 15) with $2.2 billion (or 1.1%)
In 2016, Australia had a trade surplus with Saudi Arabia of $869.7 million.
In countries, which have predominantly Muslim populations, namely Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates are in the top 15 export markets for Australia. However, countries with minority Muslim populations have large Islamic populations compared to other countries. For example, India has an estimated 172 million people of Islamic faith and Singapore has approximately 827,000 people who are Muslims (or over 14% of the population).
And while these export destinations are dwarfed by the total value of exports to China (US$61.8 billion) and Japan (US$26.1 billion) they are important markets for the Australian firms exporting to them and important to Australia. Given the competitive nature of global export markets, every export dollar earned by an Australian firm or organisation is important for Australia. My late mother never went to high school; but she was a smart lady. And one valuable lesson she taught her 6 children was basic money management. Mum used to constantly remind us “if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves”. Every dollar Australia earns in the export of goods and services adds to our national wealth. And in following mum’s advice, we must protect the markets we have and grow them, as every dollar earned quickly builds up to a sizable sum and makes our country stronger.
But exporting anything from Australia is not easy. It is very difficult to complete in international export markets. Therefore, all Australian political parties should be doing what they can to make the processes easy. They should not be creating barriers to export activity, unless there are legitimate environmental, security or human rights reasons for doing so. Openly opposing any person or group on the basis of their religious practice is not a legitimate reason. It is not even a sensible ground for doing so. It not only isolates and threatens those being targeted; it offends people of similar faith living in other countries. And in relation to Islam, many of those countries are significant and growing export markets for Australia.
One Nations anti-Islamic policies potentially damage trade with major export markets. And given that support for One Nation appears to be increasing in rural and regional Australia, it begs belief why any person living in those major export areas would even consider supporting that party, whether they were involved in an export industry or not.
Consider Mr David Archibald, the One Nation candidate for the recent West Australian election. He secured 1,608 votes or 11.3% of the total vote in the Pilbara electorate. Which was almost two and half times greater than the total votes secured by One Nation overall in the election. Prior to the election, Mr Archibald was reported as stating that he is not in favour of Islam and would prefer there were no Muslims in Australia. Putting aside, the fact that his anti-Muslim stance is a violation of human rights, the Pilbara is a major exporting region. And I wonder if any of the people who voted for him, considered the impact his statement could have on our export markets? Though the large percentage of people who voted for him is tempered by the small vote obtained overall by One Nation during the state election. At least the majority of West Australians are not swayed by the One Nation anti-Islamic nonsense.
People who have switched or who are considering switching to One Nation are disgruntled with the major Australian political parties. They are looking for a party that can solve the many issues that confront Australia. But One Nation is not the answer. It is not the competent alternative political party. It is a fool’s paradise. And left unchecked will bring considerable harm to Australia’s reputation and damage our export markets. Those who rely on export income to live and that includes the majority of Australians, need to seriously consider their political choices.