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Free-trade deal could hit employment rate, manufacturing & national revenue: Greens

Greens Deputy Leader and Industry spokesperson Adam Bandt MP today said that if Tony Abbott’s China trade deal allows the importation of overseas workers, it could be a body-blow to our employment rate. 

Reports today suggest Tony Abbott is considering allowing overseas investors freer access to Chinese-backed projects in Australia as part of the forthcoming Chinese free trade deal. 

“What’s the point of these trade deals if the investments that they generate don’t create jobs in Australia?,” said Mr Bandt. 

“If it’s true that Tony Abbott is moving to abuse the 457 visa system, import overseas labor and cut local workers out of the picture, it would be devastating. 

“When the investment is completed and 457 visa holders fly out, so do their skills and Australia is poorer for it,” said Mr Bandt.  

The Chinese trade deal could also hurt our national revenue, said Peter Whish-Wilson. 

“The untold story of the decline of our car industry is the role of the Korean trade deal, which imported cheap cars fatally undercutting domestically-made cars,” said Senator Whish-Wilson. 

“Australian workers will be reading reports that Tony Abbott is considering allowing Chinese workers work on Chinese-backed projects in Australia with dread. This risks a repeat of how the Korean trade deal undercut our domestic car industry, but instead of cars, this time around its Chinese labour. 

“Adelaide University’s End of the Road report suggests that the collapse of the domestic car industry could cost 200,000 jobs and $29bn in lost economic output. If the value of the Australia dollar falls, the report suggests this could rise to 270,000 jobs lost and a $44bn hit to lost GDP.  

The report paints an even worse scenario, simulating a fall in the Australian dollar to 65 cents against the US dollar. In this scenario, leading to a 30 per cent pick-up in local production as the cost of imported cars rose, the study estimates there could be a $44 billion hit to gross domestic product and the loss of 270,000 jobs.

“With Australian manufacturing significantly weakened, at the same time, Tony Abbott could undercut the Australian workforce and import Chinese labor as part of his free-trade deal. This begs the question, who actually benefits from the Chinese trade deal? 

“At the moment it seems that Tony Abbott is more beholden to trans-national markets than to Australia’s national interest,” said Senator Whish-Wilson. 

Sales of Thai-made vehicles rose by almost 50 per cent since the Free Trade Agreement with Thailand came into effect in four years ago.

The South Korean car industry produced 4.5 million vehicles in 2013, while Australia built 220,000 vehicles. 

The chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, Tony Weber, was reported on News.com.au as saying:  “The proposed [Free Trade Agreement with South Korea] will obviously enhance competition because it makes prices of cars imported from those countries cheaper, but that makes it a more difficult environment for domestic producers. Every time you sign a Free Trade Agreement it makes it tougher.”

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