What do Luke Foley, Daniel Andrews, Jay Weatherill, Bob Hawke and Bob Carr have in common?
What do Luke Foley, Daniel Andrews, Jay Weatherill, Bob Hawke and Bob Carr have in common? Yes, they are current or former Labor leaders but their common link is their support of the Coalition government’s China Australia Free Trade Agreement.
Unfortunately the current Federal Labor leader Bill Shorten is being led by the nose by the unions to oppose the deal through a campaign of deliberate misinformation.
Their assertion that Chinese workers will take Australian jobs holds no water. ChAFTA will not allow unrestricted access to the Australian labour market by Chinese workers. It will not allow Australian employment laws or conditions to be undermined, nor allow companies to avoid paying Australian wages by using foreign workers.
Through Investment Facilitation Arrangements (IFAs) made available under a separate MOU concluded alongside ChAFTA, Chinese companies making significant investments in Australia (more than $150 million in specific types of infrastructure development projects) will have increased access to skilled overseas workers when suitable local workers cannot be found. I stress that employers will not be permitted to bring in overseas skilled workers unless there is clear evidence of a genuine labour market need as determined by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
As to the claim that Chinese electricians will be able to work in Australia without any skills assessment, all applicants for a subclass 457 temporary work (skilled) visa will still need to have the requisite skills and qualifications. They will still have to obtain any required Federal, State or Territory licenses or registration.
The tariff cuts under ChAFTA over the first year are estimated to provide tariff savings of up to $188 million across key growth commodities like beef, sheep meat, hides and skins, livestock, dairy, horticulture, wine and seafood. It means better business for Australian companies. Sanger Australia, which recently merged with Inverell meat processor Bindaree Beef, has just signed a Memorandum of Understanding with JD.com to provide the first Australian chilled, retail-ready beef product to Chinese consumers online. The new premium brand to be delivered to Chinese consumers is First Cut Pure Australian Beef. The MLA estimates that ChAFTA will be worth an additional $830 million each year by 2024 to the Australian red meat industry. Owen Hegarty, Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, says ChAFTA’s legacy will be jobs and opportunities for generations of Australians to come. Aurizon CEO Lance Hockridge described the Agreement as job creation, not job destruction.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the National Farmers’ Federation and the Minerals Council of Australia are all advocates for it.
Yet Bill Shorten and his Labor Senate leader Penny Wong are too frightened to upset the Unions who gave them their jobs. As a former Labor Minister Martin Ferguson said recently in relation to Opposition MP’s “too many wait for the phone call from the trade union heavy to tell them what to do”. What they should do is think about Australia’s economic future and support this deal.