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China FTA is WorkChoices by stealth

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MEDIA RELEASES China FTA is WorkChoices by stealth September 04, 2015

Independent Senator for Victoria John Madigan has accused the government of attempting

industrial relations reform without a mandate, riding roughshod over the democratic rights of


“This is WorkChoices by stealth,” Senator Madigan said.

“The Prime Minister promised he would not pursue industrial relations reform during his first

term. Yet the China free trade agreement allows Chinese companies operating here to employ

foreign workers irrespective of the availability of Australian workers.

“This will cost Australian jobs and condemn Australians working for Chinese-owned

companies to the minimum pay and conditions an employer can get away with. This in turn

will put Australian companies without the same access to cheap foreign labour at a

competitive disadvantage. To remain competitive they will need to reduce labour costs,

creating a race to the bottom that will see Australian workers as the losers.

“The effect will be to reduce the pay and conditions of Australian workers across the board,

increasing profits for big business. This is what they tried to do with WorkChoices. The

Australian people rejected that, so they are trying to achieve the same result another way.”

Senator Madigan slammed the government’s response to critics of the agreement as a

deliberate attempt to stifle genuine debate on an issue of significant national importance.

“The government denies the China FTA gives additional rights to Chinese companies and

says anyone who tells you otherwise is racist. Quite simply, the government is lying. The

agreement is as clear as daylight on this point.

“The government must know this and therefore, its response can only be interpreted as an

attempt to shut down debate.

“As for labelling people racists, if it wasn’t so bizarre it would be offensive. Successive

Australian governments have entered free trade agreements with a range of countries. This

government signed agreements with Japan and South Korea before concluding the China

agreement. This is not a race issue. It is about opening the Australian jobs market to

foreigners and the effect this will have on pay and conditions here.”

Senator Madigan said the experience with the China FTA suggests a need to reconsider the

unfettered power of the executive to enter agreements of this type.

“There is an obvious danger when you have the government concluding an agreement with a

foreign power negotiated in secret without the need for even a vote of the parliament. There

is potential for the government of the day to bind us to agreements that do not have the

support of the majority of Australians, as seems to have occurred here.”

Senator Madigan called on the government to be up-front with the electorate about the nature

of the China agreement.

“The government needs to come clean with the Australian people. If it wants to open up our

jobs market to foreigners, it needs to say so, and to seek a mandate before making such a

dramatic reform.”