As Kim Beazley slims down to take
Jana Pittman’s place in the baton relay and much of Australia settles in on the
couch for the next two weeks, Melbourne will come alive today trying to generate
ersatz Olympic excitement for what many see as the increasingly irrelevant
Commonwealth Games.

John Howard should be rather happy
with the timing of the games, nothing like a bit national spirit to wash away
the AWB stain (or he would be if anyone cared about the inquiry in the first
place). Then there’s the excitement that will accompany Australia’s 50th
Gold Medal. Jubilant faces will adorn the front pages of Australia’s
newspapers, relegating cries for tax reform to a couple of paragraphs on the
bottom left corner of page two (…continued on page
31). After
which we’ll be two and a half weeks closer to a budget which will not be
remotely “reformist”.

Will the Commonwealth Games be a
success? Of course they will. We may not care much about our politicians’ ethics
or tax reform (according to the Gummint anyway), but it will be a dark day in
hell before we become apathetic about sport.

Forgive Henry’s tantrum gentle
readers, for in fact he is not negative about the forthcoming Games at all. On
the contrary he is quite positive about the Games – they WILL be fun – and there
are very real economic opportunities available by remaining an active member of
the Commonwealth. In an economic sense, the Commonwealth Games are still VERY
relevant to Australia.

As Tim Harcourt of Austrade writes,
“there was a time when the vast majority of Australia’s
trade was transacted with the Commonwealth (or Empire which it was then). For
instance in 1901, nearly 74% of Australian exports went to
Britain and its Dominions. But even
today, the Commonwealth is still significant in terms of Australian trade. Over
A$33 billion – around 26% of total Australian merchandise exports – is
exported to Commonwealth countries and over A$32 billion – or 21% – is
imported.”

If Australia can use the Commonwealth Games to
increase trade opportunities, particularly with partners such as
India, then the Commonwealth is an
exclusive club of which it definitely still pays to be a
member.

Read Tim Harcourt’s full article on
the economic opportunities here.

Peter Fray

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