Unions fear for jobs in free trade deals

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - — VIC­TO­RIA NU­GENT

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.

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