Union ‘scare campaign’ over China FTA jobs, says Robb

Jon Condon, 28/07/2015

TRADE minister Andrew Robb has branded a union-backed media blitz suggesting Chinese workers will flood Australia under the looming China-Australia Free Trade Agreement as a pack of lies.

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union paid for prominent metropolitan and regional TV ads appearing from last night, which argue strongly against the China-Australia FTA.

The CFMEU’s criticisms are around 457 visas in various aspects and around the increased liberalisation of access for Chinese labour into Australia. It suggests large numbers of Australians will lose jobs to Chinese imported labour. For the moment the Labor Party has supported the CFMEU on the labour issues.

Details about the CFMEU’s campaign can be accessed here.

Trade minister Andrew Robb

Trade minister Andrew Robb

Trade and investment minister Andrew Robb has categorically denied the claims, saying xenophobic elements of the union movement are jeopardising Australia’s future growth and prosperity by continuing to spread blatant lies about the China-Australia FTA.

“Our economic relationship with China is responsible – directly and indirectly – for hundreds of thousands of Australian jobs.  By perpetuating myths about ChAFTA and demonising China, Labor’s union mates are threatening the very jobs they claim to be concerned about,” he said.

Mr Robb said the CFMEU, the ETU, the AMWU and the ACTU were wilfully peddling out-and-out lies regarding labour market testing and skills requirements for workers seeking temporary 457 visas.

Mr Robb has issued this document “China-Australia FTA Myths versus Realities”, which addresses some of the Union claims about the China-Australia FTA signed in Canberra on June 17.

Some of its key points:

  • Under ChAFTA, a Chinese company investing more than $150 million in specific types of Australian infrastructure projects must use Australian workers, unless it can prove that there are no qualified Australian workers to do the job.
  • Even then, an investor may only be approved to bring in a limited number of qualified workers with the specific skills required for a limited period of time.
  • These are the same major project provisions that Labor introduced when in office.
  • The FTA does not change the skills and experience requirements that need to be met by a skilled worker applying for a temporary skilled visa to work in Australia.
  • Applicants will still be required to demonstrate to the Immigration Department that they possess the requisite skills and experience to work in this country.
  • This includes evidence of identity, work history, qualifications, memberships of relevant bodies or associations, references and documents showing English language skills etc.
  • An additional skills assessment from a registered training organisation approved by Trades Recognition Australia will be conducted if further verification is required by the Immigration Department.
  • This brings China into line with many of Australia’s other major trading partners including the US, Korea, Japan, Poland, Chile, Germany, Singapore, New Zealand, Somalia and the UK.

“ChAFTA will open up huge opportunities for our resources, agriculture, manufacturing and service industries,” Mr Robb said.
“It’s time the unions supported the agreement which will create thousands upon thousands of jobs, leading to growth and prosperity for generations of Australians for decades to come,” he said.

“But while the unions are busy spreading lies about overseas workers, let’s not forget that Penny Wong herself said just a few weeks ago, and I quote: ‘temporary migration to fill skill shortages is a sensible proposition’.”

“Bill Shorten needs to call-off his union attack dogs and put a stop to the advertisements, deceptive ‘robocalls’ and push-polls in Coalition-held marginal seats across Australia, that are using inflammatory language to create fear in the electorate,” Mr Robb said.

AMIC warns over delays

In communication to members this week, the Australian Meat Industry Council warned that any delay to the entry into force of the agreement would cost the Australian meat industry. Extending the FTA’s entry into force into 2016 would simply provide advantage to Australia’s principal competitor in the Chinese market, New Zealand, which moves into zero tariffs in 2016 on beef and sheepmeat as a result of its own FTA with China established in 2008.

AMIC said it believed the China FTA agreement was a good deal for the Australian red meat industry and the economy at large.

“China is already Australia’s largest trading partner overall with Australian exports to China accounting for nearly 6pc of Australia’s GDP,” it said.

“The trade agreement will further deepen and broaden that economic relationship. In the case of the meat processing and export sector the agreement will eliminate tariffs for beef, sheep and goat meat products over 4 to 9 years.”




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