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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