Trade Minister accused of deceiving public on China Free Trade Agreement

Published: 13 Jul 2015

A national television advertising campaign highlighting flaws in the Abbott Government's recently signedfree trade agreement with China will begin airing from tonight, warning that the deal will leave Australian workers "without a hope."

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union advertisements — which will begin tonight in the ACT, Tasmania and Queensland — come as the union accused Trade Minister Andrew Robb ofdeliberately misleading the Australian public in his attempts to promote the agreement.

The commercial, which features the faces of young Australian's in trades that will be opened up to Chinese workers without the need for existing mandatory skills assessments, warns that: "instead of creating jobs for Australians, the Abbott Government's deal allows Chinese companies to bring in theirown workers, leaving Australian workers without a hope."

CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor hit back at attacks by Mr Robb on the union campaign against key elements of the free trade agreement, accusing him of publishing deliberately misleading and untrue statements in a Ministerial media release issued on July 7.

"Mr Robb appears to be deliberately misleading the Australian public about key details of this free trade agreement with China," Mr O'Connor said.

"Among these deceptive statements is Mr Robb's claim that a Chinese company investing more than $150 million in Australian infrastructure projects 'must use Australian workers, unless it can prove that there are no qualified Australian workers to do the job', which is completely untrue.

"As is his claim that '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.'"

The facts are that any company contracted to work on such a project — whether Chinese or Australian based — can use unlimited numbers of Chinese workers in all 651 skilled occupations covered by the 457 visa with no legal obligation to advertise jobs to prove there are no qualified Australian workers available."

Mr O'Connor also attacked Mr Robb's claim that "these are the same major project provisions that Labor introduced when in office."

"Labor's Enterprise Migration Agreements required a project to be worth $2 billion — with a workforce of at least 1,500 people," he said.

"Mr Robb's IFA's have no minimum workforce size, only need a total project expenditure of $150 million, and only require Chinese investment to be 15 per cent of that."

Another of his claims, that the China Free Trade Agreement 'does not change the skills and experience requirements' for an application for a temporary skilled visa to work in Australia, is also false.

"The ChAFTA agreement includes a side letter — signed personally by Andrew Robb — stating that for 10 skilled occupations, including electricians, mechanics and carpenters, mandatory skills assessments will no longer be required.

"These mandatory skills assessments are currently required for workers from China, as well as many other countries, and are being removed directly as a result of this agreement.

"In its rush to secure an agreement, the Abbott Government appears to have been outsmarted or outmanoeuvred by the Chinese government, to the detriment of Australian workers and businesses.

"They are now too embarrassed to admit key elements of the agreement may be a mistake, instead attacking unions who highlight the negative impacts this free trade deal will have on Australian jobs, workplace safety, and consumer protections."

You can watch the CFMEU television advertisement on You Tube here.


Authorised by Michael O'Connor, National Secretary,165 Bouverie Street Carlton 3053