Unions fear for jobs in free trade deals
UNION protesters put a dampener on a seminar about North Asia free trade agreements held in Townsville yesterday afternoon.
The Federal Government seminar at the Townsville Yacht Club was designed to give local businesses information about the free trade agreements, but unions criticised the proposed deals with China, Korea and Japan.
Queensland Council of Unions branch president Les Moffitt said the proposal meant that any investor with a project in excess of $ 150 million could bring in foreign workers.
“Particularly in regional centres like Townsville we’re very concerned,” he said. “Over the last decade we’re at the highest percentage of unemployment at the moment and we want all the jobs … to at least give Australian workers first option.”
Parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Trade and Investment Steven Ciobo slammed the unions for “scaremongering”.
Mr Ciobo said that the 457 visa process meant workers could only be brought in when there was a demonstrable lack of Australians who could be employed.
“To try to pretend there will be a freefor- all is completely untrue,” he said.
Mr Ciobo said participants at the seminar were as diverse as beef exporters and child care workers.
Mango grower exporter Marie Piccone was among those attending the seminar and said she hoped the free trade agreements would help them export more.
“It means we’re more competitive because the tariff is lower, which means our product isn’t as expensive in those markets and we can compete with product from other countries,’’ she said.
Herbert MP Ewen Jones said the seminar was about how small businesses could get good benefits from the free trade agreements.
“Townsville has to become an international city if we’re to develop the north of this country,” he said.
NOT HAPPY: Union protesters gather outside Townsville Yacht Club to criticise free trade deals with China, Korea and Japan.