Gold and dross in FTA reactions

Jason Soon blogs an excellent post on the Aus/US FTA:

As Stephen Kirchner points out, a lot of the recent negativity over the US Free Trade Agreement has come from the view of trade as a zero sum game. Let’s note that unilateral lifting of trade barriers is almost always a good thing so the fact that the Australia has ‘given up’ on more trade barriers than the US is irrelevant. The fact that Australia under the FTA is now committed to the gradual phasing out of car and textile tariffs which hurt consumers is a good thing regardless of whether we get more access to the US market. …

The entire post is well worth reading, especially if you’re minded to accept uncritically the special interest bleeting of the sugar industry, the latte set at Fairfax and the ABC, and the arts industry luvvies.

Speaking of the latter, (via Tim Blair) it seems they just can’t help whinging despite all current local content rules being insulated from the effects of the FTA:

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.
The deal throws open Australian TV, movie and computer screens to US productions with only limited protection for local content.

The Herald-Sun story then goes on to explain what the luvvies are bleeting about:

The deal preserves current local content rules for existing free-to-air television channels and gives some control over emerging media, but prevents the Government regulating any new media.

But “new media”, principally the internet and future elaborations of it, are almost impossible for any single nation to regulate effectively anyway. Any nation which attempted to impose free-to-air TV-style local content rules for the World Wide Web would simply be bypassed by consumers accessing content sites housed on servers in countries with more liberal regimes. I suspect the Howard government belatedly learned this lesson in the wake of Richard Alston’s complete failure to regulate Internet porn and gambling sites successfully, and so realised that agreeing to US negotiators’ demands to eschew local content protection for new media wasn’t really a concession at all. They simply promised not to do something they have no power to achieve anyway. So the luvvies are not only whingers, but ignorant Luddite whingers to boot.

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Politics - international. Bookmark the permalink.
24 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

What the ‘luvvies’ also neglect to mention is that 7 out of the top 10 rating TV shows are Australian. Buying American is certainly cheaper, but Australians generally like watching Australians in a number of genres.

In any case, a lot of the American products are frankly superior to ours. Not all, but many.

And I don’t see them complaining about BBC South — sorry — the ABC.

Dave Ricardo
Dave Ricardo
2022 years ago

“a lot of the American products are frankly superior to ours”

I agree. My favourite is “Wrestlemania”.

Jim
Jim
2022 years ago

I heard a legal expert in media affairs interviewed on the World Today about this. He stated that similar concerns were voiced in Canada when the FTA came into force and the mix of content on free to air hardly changed.
He noted that Canadians (like Australians) generally prefer the home grown brand so he doesn’t expect much to change.
The reaction to the FTA sounds alike the doom scenarios predicted when the GST was introduced.
Wonder if the reaction would be the same if it were anyone other than Howard who clinched the deal?

David Tiley
2022 years ago

It’s a funny thing. We work in a highly casualised industry, for low rates of play, pretty directly exploited by media proprietors, because it happens to be what we are good at and often the audience likes it.

it seems as if the FTA contains a number of worrying concessions – capping the quotas on free-to-air television, limiting them on the expanding pay tv market to regulating only twenty percent of channels, and capping the amount of spend required on Oz product to only twenty percent, which is much much less than the current regs for free-to-air.

American cinema chains already actively lock out non-US product, even in the European market, so it is reasonable to expect that the centralised delivery of films via satellite will work the same way. So we might want to regulate it – but we can’t.

So life in a marginal industry could well get tougher. Over time, we move to a digital framework which is less regulated, and we lose the sovereign right to do anything about it. Maybe that is worth increasing the beef market by one day’s US product in twenty year’s time. Or supporting the deregulated movement of products back and forth in the vertically integrated car market between US parents and Australian subsidiaries. I don’t know.

But I am saddened that when I raise these issues Ken thinks “that I just can’t help whinging.” And I think it is bizarre that people would think of me and my colleagues as “luvvies”. The word is anti-art, anti-intellectual, sneering and short for something I am sure that Tim Blair believes but the Armadillos don’t.

Dan
Dan
2022 years ago

“But I am saddened that when I raise these issues Ken thinks “that I just can’t help whinging.” And I think it is bizarre that people would think of me and my colleagues as “luvvies”. The word is anti-art, anti-intellectual, sneering and short for something I am sure that Tim Blair believes but the Armadillos don’t.”

Well said. That sort of broad-brush insult is to be expected on the more tabloid blogs, but surprising here. Why should those in the Arts industry be any less entitled to defend their patch than sugar growers or car makers?

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

That’s fine. Those of us in the audience are just protecting our patch as well.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

The word is anti-art, anti-intellectual, sneering and short for something I am sure that Tim Blair believes but the Armadillos don’t.

Let me be very clear where I stand on this.

The ‘luvvies’, whether or not the title is a tabloid slur, deserve no special breaks over the average fellow. Your committment to art and the higher things in life is commendable, but not somehow exempt from the same ethical strictures applying to any society based on private property and the rule of law; no matter how loosely we may have adopted those principles here in Australia.

Indeed the entire frame of your thinking is so completely enclosed by the ring of regulation that you cannot realise that these bestriding hegemonic US corporate beasts are the children of regulatory, central-planner thinking.

Centrally planning anything – and that includes the supply of art – is the quick and easy road to a big mess. More regulation is not the solution: cf the Higher Education sector.

Jason Soon
2022 years ago

those who are in the arts usually have a commendable appreciation of the virtues of internationalism in other contexts – yet this seems to fall away when they *think* their livelihoods are threatened by the big bad US. Fair enough. They are as entitled to whinge as anyone else, but equally they are as entitled not to get any special treatment as a consequence.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

This is the wedge politics I am afraid of. I suggest that the FTA treaty might adversely affect my living, and that to articulate that fact is not “whinging”. I am after all politically entitled to say that this could be destructive to our industry, and to argue that this should not happen, and that the work we do is a social good. Like schoolteachers or firemen or university academics.

In return, I am told that I am asking for “special treatment”, as I am asking for “special breaks” and trying to operate outside the “ethical strictures of our society”, as if I am violating “private property and the rule of law.” And that I am so imbued with false consciousness that I just can’t see the truth.

That is wedge politics. You accuse me of superiority, of demanding privilege, of being immoral, of being blind. This kind of language appeals to vindictiveness, creates me as part of a reified special interest group, which should somehow be punished. And frankly my blood runs cold, as you create the ammunition for small minded anti-intectualism, that could so easily spread across the cultural sector. Big heads, smartarses, eggheads.. think they’re better than the rest of us.. chardonnay socialists.. fat academics, don’t know what happens in the real world.. you can hear the tone of voice. And economists are vulnerable too. Its the culture of envy and blame, that turns on what it can’t understand.

We’ve become experts in wedge politics in this culture. We know it’s nasty. You are being insensitive to the kind of argument you use. People who use the term “luvvies”, for instance, don’t even notice that the word is actually homophobic. You are dancing with the devil my friends. Don’t do it.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

David,

I occasionally use tabloid language and techniques quite deliberately, to maintain audience iinterest and avoid becoming too turgid and analytical. Read my Evatt Foundation article at http://evatt.labor.net.au/publications/papers/100.html : it explains what I mean in a fair amount of depth. I have to confess I don’t quite follow the “luvvies” is homophobic point. Please explain.

Nor do I accept that labelling the current arts lobby claims about the FTA as demands for “special treatment” (or rent-seeking, a term no-one has used but which is entirely fitting) are “wedge politics”. Wedge politics is a specific political strategy which seeks to hive off “soft” supporters of one political party by demonising its policies, and usually involves appealing to the “soft” supporters’ deepest fears and prejudices. There is no element of that in the present discussion, so far as I can see. Using strong, emotive language in a political debate is not “wedge politics” per se.

Personally, I agree with Jason etc. The arts industry IS demanding special treatment. As far as I can see, the FTA preserves local content rules for existing free-to-air media, and for cable/pay TV at its present size, but declines to extend that protection either to “new media” (Internet etc) or to an expanded cable network. Thus the arts industry’s existing levels of protection are being preserved, but not increased. Seems entirely fair to me. If the Oz arts industry can’t survive and thrive with the combination of guaranteed local content and extensive government funding through the Australia Council and numerous other bodies, then it frankly doesn’t deserve to.

Possibly unlike Jason, I actually support the existing levels of protection and subsidy to the arts, because there’s a need for a certain base level of support to enable a small industry to survive in the face of the huge American film and TV industry, with all its cartel and semi-closed shop characteristics. However, beyond that base level, it’s up to the industry itself to produce films and TV programming that will succeed in the domestic and international marketplace. In demanding (effectively) that existing local content rules be extended to all new media and expanded cable networks, the luvvies are effectively demanding additional protection, not just preservation of existing government perks. Moreover, as I oberved in the main post, in relation to new media they’re demanding the impossible.

Anthony
Anthony
2022 years ago

I’m not sure what people think they mean when they say ‘luvvies’. By my understanding it’s supposed to denote actors who behave in a camp, exaggerated kind of way.
But bloggers aren’t very consistent about it. Ken’s decided it means the arts industry generally. Fair enough, it’s a standard synecdoche.
Others have decided it means people connected with the ABC and SMH, so leftish jounalists I guess.
In this comment Ron seems to have decided it means… well, I don’t know. Malcolm Fraser became one, so I guess it means ‘non-supporter of John Howard’. That’s a pretty broad definition, and certainly includes a lot of people who would rarely be found at opening night parties saying “Oh you were fabulous luvvy”.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

I also can understand the frustration David, “luvvies” seems to have become some catch-all pejorative, ideal for typecasting a diverse group with a negative connotation. I’m assuming that David’s suggestion that the term is homophobic, springs from its attempt to signify art as a somewhat unnatural practice. The way that writing is often seen as an effeminate practice, which is somehow seen as inferior to other “practical pursuits” (as though this does not display an entrepreneurial spirit in refusing the easy career path and establishing oneself in a very competitive market-place). I guess artists have always had to endure these labels, but it is a concern when you consider how far ahead females are to males in the literacy stakes. Surely, someone of these sort of stereotypical responses are not helping in encouraging young men to pick up a book. Some of my old friends haven’t picked up a book since high school. Are they not missing out on the liberating potential and the multitude of experiences and perspectives that escape any crude definition. The idea that artistic creation is somehow “sissy” is ludicrous. What of the Byronic bonk-fests, Maileresque machismo (some may suggest misogyny), the exultation of the beautiful moment, the many differing possibilities of manhood (yes a rather nebulous term) and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Seems like a lot to miss out on, what is that Socrates quote on the “unexamined life”

Then again why not get some RWDB, say Andrew Bolt to screenwrite for the ABC “Luvvies is a Four-Letter Word”. In this he can denounce it all as “degenerate art,” particular the children’s books that don’t have happy endings. He can rip in, how dare Peter Carey question the motives of John Howard (he doesn’t even live in Australia)- this argument sounds awfully similar to the Chinese Communist Party’s attacks on Gao Xingjang. In many circumstances its akin to damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Artists often leave this country as it is the only way they can make a livelihood out of their vocation and then they are criticised for leaving. I can understand their concerns about the local industry, which is very fragile, they do not have the scale of production or the distributive power to withstand an open-slather assault by the American entertainment industry, which is why there was much less concern about the New Zealand ruling. Mind you it doesn’t seem like the government has caved in on this issue, but the devil is always in the detail. I’ll defer judgment until I know more.

woodsy
woodsy
2022 years ago

The above comments include some of the best writing seen in Australia. How can anybody fear the effects of a FTA on creative thought while an avenue remains available to air thoughts and give the ordinary person (and perhaps our creative cousins) an opportunity to express themselves?

This blog is an example of why we have nothing to fear “in the face of the huge American film and TV industry, with all its cartel and semi-closed shop characteristics.

David Tiley
2022 years ago

Ken,
Thanks for the link to the article which I will reread to and think through carefully, since it is as you said detailed.

You and I seem to denote the word “luvvie” differently. To me it evokes an exagerrated camp theatricality (thanks Anthony) – it suggests something queeny. It evokes a connection with behaviour and a subculture which most people don’t like. And it is used around the net as a pejorative term – it is never used by supporters of film and television, and its is emphatically not a self description. We don’t say: “we luvvies.” In your post, and others including Tim Blairs, it is associated with the word “whinging.” That is a pejorative term, one of the very few you haved used in these posts.

Put the two together, and I think the word “luvvie” is also being used pejoratively. That connection of gay plus disapproval is homophobic.

Why do I think this is wedge politics, within your technical and observationally acute definition? My description of the general position in my second to last paragraph fits it well – “This kind of language appeals to vindictiveness, creates me as part of a reified special interest group, which should somehow be punished. And frankly my blood runs cold, as you create the ammunition for small minded anti-intellectualism, that could so easily spread across the cultural sector..” is pretty close to “demonising its policies, and usually involves appealing to the “soft” supporters’ deepest fears and prejudices.”

I think the discussion gives credence and energy to a meme which is destructive. That may not be wedge politics in the party political sense, but I can’t easily find another term which describes its dynamic political potential. It is about evoking bigotry. And I am uneasily conscious that there’s a lot of it about in the blogosphere – and times when I too, in being funny and energetic in my language – talk up prejudice which is based on envy and nasty mindedness.

I look to other people including Troppo and Quiggin to explain to me the evolving picture of the FTA conditions. But I can certainly repeat the concerns we in the film and television industry took into this – that the regulations would be frozen into the current stance, but that future regulation of digital media would be disallowed. Our theory is that the current delivery forms will morph into digital media, so we lose the capacity to regulate the sector.

You only have to see, for instance, that the regs for cable – which by the way have a dispensation to climb but not by much (from ten to 20 percent) – are much lower than for free to air. If cable become dominant, what happens to regulation then? That’s the worry, We do need the current levels.

I should acknowledge that we would also argue that Australia needs to retain the sovereign right to regulate itself. And I think the free traders would say this is a fundamental disagreement to the whole notion of an FTA. That I am not qualified to debate.

This is a stimulating discussion. It has enabled me to pin down some stuff that really bothers me about political discourse.

By the way Woodsy, I agree with you about the quality of the “broadsheet blogs” and the writing. It give me great heart. But to my mind, it doesn’t compensate for the threat to more traditional visual media. I want both.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I’m a bit surprised at the reaction to “luvvies.”

The term has been used for decades by “Private Eye” magazine to headline a regular column incorporating a series of quotes from people involved in the Yartz. The quotes tend towards the slightly pretentious, precious and overblown Through that usage, it’s become anglosphere shorthand for those within the arts – particularly acting. I’ve frequently heard it used by people in the arts to describe – in a self-deprecating way – other people in the arts.

I’m sure the term does derive from a camp take on a supposed actor propensity to use terms like “love” and “darling” but I’ve never considered it to be homosexual in any sense. It’s not gender-specific in my understanding of it: Glenda Jackson and Vanessa Redgrave have featured more than most in the Private Eye column.

Anthony
Anthony
2022 years ago

I think calling luvvies “Anglosphere shorthand” is going a bit far. I’ve seen it in Private Eye, and occasional articles about actors in the UK press. And then I’ve seen it in a disparaging sense in the Oz blogosphere, where (as I pointed out) it usually seems to mean something more like that old favourite “elites”. If it means anything coherent at all, that is.
Geoff, it’s nice to see you defending its original meaning, though it is hard to square this with the way you use it yourself. In this post do you mean that actors from Balmain have taken over the Australian Democrats? And in this one you suggest that the UN is also full of thespians.
Personally I think it’s dumb to apply it to anyone other than John Gielgud or Vanessa Redgrave, and I’m moving a bill to ban its use in all other contexts. Alternatively we could decide that ‘luvvies’ denotes a particular collection of right-wing Oz bloggers.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

I think many people in both Balmain and the Auistralian Democrats might fit within a broad-based luvvie descriptor – though I concede that Andrew Murray would be a problematic fit. Diplomacy is theatre. I could therefore think of few places more likely to harbour luvvies than the UN.

Jacques Chester
Jacques Chester
2022 years ago

This is the wedge politics I am afraid of. I suggest that the FTA treaty might adversely affect my living, and that to articulate that fact is not “whinging”. I am after all politically entitled to say that this could be destructive to our industry, and to argue that this should not happen, and that the work we do is a social good.

And I am entitled to give you what-for. To call the Emperor on his threads, as it were.

In return, I am told that I am asking for “special treatment”, as I am asking for “special breaks” and trying to operate outside the “ethical strictures of our society”, as if I am violating “private property and the rule of law.” And that I am so imbued with false consciousness that I just can’t see the truth.

Well I’m with Ken on this one. The fact is, you are: you wish to retain a protectionist status quo, complete with tax breaks, subsidies, and “industry development”. I call that special treatment.

I wouldn’t accused you of false consciousness; frankly the term does not see much mileage outside of classical leftist/pomo discussion. I’d just say you haven’t read what I’ve read. That’s hardly your fault.

That is wedge politics.

Well your definition and my definition of wedge politics are different. To me it means identifying soft gaps between the supporters of a given party in a hyperdimensional “issues space” and driving a big old wedge between them. The handling of refugees, for instance, was a classic example of where a wedge was driven between Labor Left and Labor’s right-wing supporters. Wedges exist in any group: one that will have more sway in the coming years amongst Liberals will be drug decriminalisation or legalisation. You heard it here first.

You accuse me of superiority, of demanding privilege, of being immoral, of being blind.

I don’t accuse you of superiority; but the rest of the charges stand. :)

This kind of language appeals to vindictiveness, creates me as part of a reified special interest group, which should somehow be punished.

I don’t think that punishment is required, just recognition and acceptance that the public party should be wrapped up, and that artists are the just normal people like the rest of us; making a living by exchanging their creativity for the produce of others in a voluntary – as opposed to a compulsory – exchange.

And frankly my blood runs cold, as you create the ammunition for small minded anti-intectualism, that could so easily spread across the cultural sector. Big heads, smartarses, eggheads.. think they’re better than the rest of us.. chardonnay socialists.. fat academics, don’t know what happens in the real world.. you can hear the tone of voice. And economists are vulnerable too. Its the culture of envy and blame, that turns on what it can’t understand.

Maybe my position could be twisted to those ends, and I agree, fine art is frequently misunderstood. Nevertheless, I will not surrender my beliefs to the threat of misinterpretation. Jesus of Nazareth would probably disapprove of 90% of the crap done in his name; but I bet you he’d say it all again. That, unfortunately, is the nature of conviction. Rude and disruptive.

People who use the term “luvvies”, for instance, don’t even notice that the word is actually homophobic. You are dancing with the devil my friends. Don’t do it.

I’m amongst the “didn’t even notice” crowd. I figured it was just good old fashioned Australian ribbing.

In any case, I probably count as homophobic; being straight usually does so. I’m perfectly happy to let consenting adults do whatever they please, so long as I don’t have to care or be involved.

trackback
2022 years ago

Calling border protection

Back Pages hasn’t gone anywhere near the FTA. But Tim Dunlop says that, on the surface, one change means that “instead of requiring FIRB approval for investment at the $50 mil mark, the threshold is now $800 mil – quite…

trackback
2022 years ago

Calling border protection

Back Pages hasn’t gone anywhere near the FTA. But Tim Dunlop says that, on the surface, one change means that “instead of requiring FIRB approval for investment at the $50 mil mark, the threshold is now $800 mil – quite…

trackback
2022 years ago

Calling border protection

Back Pages hasn’t gone anywhere near the FTA. But Tim Dunlop says that, on the surface, one change means that “instead of requiring FIRB approval for investment at the $50 mil mark, the threshold is now $800 mil – quite…

trackback
2022 years ago

Calling border protection

Back Pages hasn’t gone anywhere near the FTA. But Tim Dunlop says that, on the surface, one change means that “instead of requiring FIRB approval for investment at the $50 mil mark, the threshold is now $800 mil – quite…

trackback
2022 years ago

Calling border protection

Back Pages hasn’t gone anywhere near the FTA. But Tim Dunlop says that, on the surface, one change means that “instead of requiring FIRB approval for investment at the $50 mil mark, the threshold is now $800 mil – quite…

trackback
2022 years ago

Calling border protection

Back Pages hasn’t gone anywhere near the FTA. But Tim Dunlop says that, on the surface, one change means that “instead of requiring FIRB approval for investment at the $50 mil mark, the threshold is now $800 mil – quite…