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Monday, 9 November 2015
Page: 8017


Senator RUSTON (South AustraliaAssistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (17:55): Firstly, despite what we have heard today, particularly from Senator Whish-Wilson, about everything that you can possibly find that is potentially negative or that you can spin into a negative, it is not a reflection of the response I have received travelling around Australia and speaking to people who are the beneficiaries of these particular agreements. To say that the benefits are overstated I think is really unfair. There are myriad people out there seeing that these trade arrangements are going to be of massive benefit to them, to their businesses, to their economies and to their communities. Many of them are in rural and regional Australia, Senator Whish-Wilson. As you well know, coming from a small state, rural and regional Australia has been begging for a very long time to have positive opportunities. To say that we are selling workers down the river is just crazy. The opportunities presented by these free trade arrangements are job-creating opportunities for Australia; this is not a situation where Australian workers are in any way likely to be negatively impacted on.

In relation to the Greens amendment on the subclass 400 temporary work (short stay activity) visa, as I stated in many responses to questions asked by Senator Whish-Wilson, we are talking about a particular class of visa that has such a specific reason for being in existence and is extraordinarily short term. The average visa stay under this visa is just 20 days. When somebody is simply coming into Australia to play in a sporting tournament and they are going to be paid, to expect them to go through labour market testing strikes me as an overly unnecessary burden on them. For that reason, obviously the government does not support the introduction of labour market testing for subclass 400 temporary work visas.

As we have discussed ad nauseam here today, requirements for the 457 visas are very strict. People cannot come into Australia under a 457 visa if there are Australians who are capable of undertaking the same employment. As we said, the requirements of the states in relation to licensing, membership or registrations are mandatory and very strict. Anybody who comes into Australia on a visa is required to meet the requirements of that visa in relation to their skills. So there are massive amounts of protections that sit around 457 visas to ensure that Australian workers are not detrimentally impacted on. The fact is that many trade agreements that have been entered into, even those entered into under previous governments, have labour market testing requirements that are, if not identical, very similar to the requirements that we are requesting under the ChAFTA arrangement.

So, Senator Whish-Wilson, the government does not support the amendments that you have moved on behalf of the Australian Greens, because we believe they are unnecessary and largely irrelevant in the context of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement. Therefore we will not be supporting them, on the basis that we believe this particular agreement is in the best interests of Australia, Australian businesses, Australian workers, Australian communities and Australian people in general.