Will Australia's free trade agreement with China really destroy local jobs?

Published: 10 Jul 2015

From The Daily Telegraph

Two writers give their verdict: MICHAEL O'CONNOR argues yes, ANDREW ROBB says no.

Yes, says CFMEU National Secretary Michael O'Connor

Imagine agreeing to allow foreign companies to sue the Australian government if new laws cut their profits. Or giving them the green light to bring in their ownworkforce, without advertising locally, for major projects.All while removing the requirement that those overseas workers undergo mandatory skills assessments to ensure they can do the job safely.
Those are just some of the concerning clauses included in the new free trade agreement with China, negotiated in ­secret and signed last month.
In his rush to lock in a deal, Prime Minister Tony Abbott was outsmarted by the Chinese government and is now too embarrassed to admit key elements of the agreement may be a mistake.
Michael O'Connor is CFMEU national secretaryMichael O'Connor is CFMEU national secretaryIn a classic magician's trick, Trade Minister Andrew Robb has attempted to deflect attention by claiming the public should be scared of the trade unions that are raising concerns about what the China Australian Free Trade Agreement will mean for Australian jobs, workplace safety, and consumer protections.
According to Robb, highlighting China's appalling work-safety record, including more than 70,000 workplace deaths a year, is a "scare ­campaign". Revealing that local manufacturers will be put at a competitive disadvantage to Chinese companies who don't meet Australian environmental, workplace or safety regulations, is called "anti-trade".
To say, at a time when unemployment is at a two-decade high, when one in seven young people who want work can't get a job, is the wrong time to allow Chinese companies to import their own workforces without advertising for local workers first is "xenophobic".
The Abbott government ­negotiated this agreement in secret, with no engagement with the Australian people about what it would contain.
Once unveiled, it was ­quickly revealed this free trade agreement contained clauses that directly disadvantage Australian workers, businesses and the community.
Our union decided to do the federal government's job for them, commissioning independent polling in seven marginal seats to give voters a voice. It found a staggering 92 per cent were opposed to allowing Chinese companies to import their own workforce.
The allowance for Chinese companies to increase exports to Australia without meeting local standards was rejected by 87 per cent. And 85 per cent were opposed to Chinese companies being allowed to sue ­future Australian governments if they believe new laws have a negative impact on them.
Before the last election, Tony Abbott promised to create "one million new jobs within five years". The superior negotiating skills of the Chinese mean that very few of these new jobs will be created in Australia.
Michael O'Connor is CFMEU national secretary

Click here to read Andrew Robb's repsonse and the original article on The Daily Telegraph site.


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