China is Australia’s largest trading partner. Strengthening this economic relationship is important for our future prosperity.
The China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will achieve significant improvements in market access for Australian exporters which will be good for Australian growth and jobs. However, the deal brought home by the Abbott-Turnbull Government had shortcomings that have raised widespread community concern.
Labor’s benchmarks for a high-quality FTA with China included:
- New Zealand-plus market access outcomes for Australian farmers;
- Elimination or significant reductions in tariffs on Australian industrial goods;
- Retention of Australia’s anti-dumping safeguards;
- Major improvements in market access for Australian services;
- Reduction in red-tape and other barriers to two-way investment flows between Australia and China;
- No provisions which give Chinese companies operating in Australia superior legal rights to those enjoyed by Australian companies;
- Retention of labour market testing or comparable safeguards on temporary migration
The Abbott-Turnbull deal would have allowed employers to hire 457 visa workers without having to advertise jobs for local workers first. It also abolished mandatory skills assessments for important trade occupations. That is why Labor insisted on safeguards to complement the ChAFTA.
Labor’s focus was to secure the benefits of the agreement, plus:
- Safeguarding Australian jobs, through labour market testing.
- Upholding Australian pay and conditions, through a better wage system for 457 workers.
- Maintaining Australian skills and safety standards, by ensuring foreign workers have the relevant occupational or trade license under Australian law.
Labor secured an agreement from the Abbott-Turnbull Government which addresses each of our concerns by making changes to migration law. These new safeguards in the temporary skilled migration program will:
- Require employers to carry out labour market testing – that is, advertising jobs locally before using overseas workers.
- Strengthen requirements for 457 visa workers to be paid Australian wages and conditions by linking market salary rate requirements to wages under enterprise agreements.
- Create strict new visa conditions for 457 workers in important trades occupations like electrical and plumbing trades to obtain Australian trades licences.
Labor’s safeguards will support local job opportunities, underpin Australian wages and conditions, maintain workplace skills and safety standards, and deter exploitation of overseas workers.
Labor’s responsible stance means Australian exporters and consumers will secure the benefits of ChAFTA while ensuring that Australian job opportunities, wages, skills and safety standards are not undermined.