Before Australia rushes back to protectionism, it would be wise to recall some of the basic reasons why we abandoned it in the first place -- and the costs of returning.

Protectionism -- whether in its traditional form of tariff or quota barriers that either increase the price of imports or simply keep them out, or in its more modern form of government assistance for industries -- costs all of us. Tariffs and quotas are like a GST on every import or import-competing product -- you're paying more every time you buy something. When Australia had high textile, clothing and footwear tariffs in the 1970s and 1980s, for example, the price impact was substantial. For low-income families who sent their kids to schools where uniforms were worn, a Midford school shirt or a pair of Bata Scouts (with the compass in the heel) were a substantial chunk of the week's family income. You ripped your school shirt or uniform at your peril -- it would have to be sewn back up again, not thrown out, and last til you grew out of it.