The spirit of giving, or at least taking, is alive and well this Christmas, with rent-seeking protectionism featuring one way or another in every second story from car manufacturers to farmers to aerodromes, right down to blood money.

Yes, Australia is moving a little closer to paying for blood, albeit in the form of tax deductions or transport cost reimbursements. They’re among the recommendations of a report commissioned by the federal government into the blood supply.

But what we shouldn’t do, according to review chairman Philip Flood, is let that any more of that filthy foreign blood into the country. Reports the SMH:

The Flood review found against a move, raised as a result of the free trade agreement with the US, to allow foreign companies to tender for Australia’s blood fractionation services, which are dominated by CSL, which has its headquarters in Melbourne.

The Federal Government called for the report to meet its FTA requirements, but the Flood review said overseas fractionation of Australian plasma was “not an advantageous option for Australia”, on economic and security of supply grounds.

Mr Flood said his committee was not convinced about claims that questioned the safety of imported blood products. “Our safety standards are world best, but so are [those of] other countries,” he said.

Never mind that we already need to import 18% of intravenous immunoglobulin products – whatever they are.

And talking of crashes that require lots of blood, the car industry is asking Canberra to freeze tariffs at 10% and tip another billion dollars directly into the industry. The Oz reports the four domestic manufacturers are saying the jobs of 70,000 people are at stake in the automotive and component industries – the sort of thing that’s getting support from Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane. Let’s see if the right-wing commentariat turns as quickly and as viciously on him as it did on Kruddy when he mentioned wanting to keep a manufacturing industry in Australia.

Never mind that Holden, Ford, Mitsubishi and Toyota are in trouble for not making the sort of cars the local market wants right now … protectionism generally isn’t about consumers’ wants at all.

Meanwhile, back on the dust bowl, the AWB saga keeps on keeping on with eastern state farmer revivalist meetings being whipped along in the drought belt by the likes of Queensland’s Senator Boswell as he subsides into a supporting role in the Life of (Barnaby) Joyce.

“I am getting a clear message from growers on the ground throughout the country that they want the single desk maintained, and that they want it to be held by a demerged AWB International,” said Senator Boswell – which sounds like he hasn’t been to WA lately.

As the wheat industry awaits Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran’s decision this Friday on 44 wheat export licence applications, it’s entirely possible the flood of such things will provide the excuse the National Party wants for leaving the single desk in tact and with AWB International.

McGauran has no basis on which to pick and chose among the 44 applicants, so it should be either all or nothing. All would mean the end of the single desk, which the Nats have promised not to do without “consultation”.

At least some of the nation’s airports are campaigning against the government’s protection of Qantas. The AFR says Melbourne and Brisbane Airports have written to the PM asking for better access for foreign airlines. They claim they’re facing a crisis as Qantas centralises seating capacity on international flights out of Sydney.

In a move that might confirm some Sydney conceits, Melbourne and Brisbane reportedly want to be treated like regional airports where no restrictions apply. Well, that’s what we Emerald City folk have always thought.

Peter Fray

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