The Courier-Mail

FTA jobs loss claim ‘off track’

- GLEN NOR­RIS

UNION scare­mon­ger­ing over the China-Aus­tralia Free Trade Agree­ment risks dam­ag­ing ties with our most im­por­tant trad­ing part­ner, Aur­i­zon chief ex­ec­u­tive Lance Hock­ridge has warned.

Mr Hock­ridge, head of the coun­try’s big­gest rail com­pany, said claims Aus­tralian jobs would be lost be­cause the FTA al­lowed Chi­nese labour to be im­ported to work on ma­jor projects were in­cor­rect.

“The FTA is about job cre­ation, not job de­struc­tion,” Mr Hock­ridge told an Aus­tralia-China Busi­ness Coun­cil fo­rum on the FTA in Bris­bane yesterday. “The ped­dling of mis­in­for­ma­tion and scare­mon­ger­ing on this topic is not only un­help­ful but de­struc­tive.”

Unions are cam­paign­ing against parts of the FTA that al­low Chi­nese com­pa­nies to bring in their own work­ers on some ma­jor projects, such as min­ing and con­struc­tion.

The Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment said all ex­ist­ing re­quire­ments for for­eign work­ers must be met, in­clud­ing wages, skills and health and safety reg­u­la­tions.

Op­po­si­tion Trade spokes­woman Sen­a­tor Penny Wong said La­bor sup­ported the FTA but only if it pro­tected Aus­tralian work­ers.

Trade Min­is­ter An­drew Robb has warned China would “walk away” from the land­mark agree­ment if La­bor voted it down in Par­lia­ment.

Mr Hock­ridge (pic­tured) said Aus­tralia’s eco­nomic pros­per­ity and jobs were highly de­pen­dent on a strong trad­ing re­la­tion­ship with China.

“All this would be at risk if the cam­paign against the FTA was suc­cess­ful and rat­i­fi­ca­tion was ei­ther blocked or stalled.”

Mr Hock­ridge said an­tiFTA bill­boards were re­cently erected in Mackay and, iron­i­cally, the city would gain enor­mous ben­e­fits from re­duced tar­iffs on coal ex­ported to China.

The FTA will scrap or re­duce tar­iffs on a range of prod­ucts ex­ported to China in­clud­ing coal, agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties and man­u­fac­tured goods.

Mr Hock­ridge said there would be sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive ram­i­fi­ca­tions for fu­ture trade be­tween Aus­tralia and China if the FTA did not pro­ceed.

Chi­nese Am­bas­sador to Aus­tralia Ma Zhaoxu told the fo­rum the FTA should be rat­i­fied as soon as pos­si­ble to en­sure max­i­mum ben­e­fit.

Mr Ma said the FTA was likely to in­crease Aus­tralia’s gross do­mes­tic prod­uct by 0.7 per cent.

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