Labor Party criticism of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) has been labelled “hypocritical” by Rockhampton-based Coalition MPs Michelle Landry and Matt Canavan.
“Despite well-publicised safeguards to protect Australian jobs, Labor and the unions continue to attack ChAFTA, stirring fears about an influx of foreign workers on 457 visas,” they said in a joint statement today.
“This is completely hypocritical. Over the past 10 years, the highest rates of 457 visa use – the four times the figure topped 100,000 foreign works per year – were all under Labor Governments.
“The unions are running a political campaign against the Coalition on this issue now, using television advertising, media stories and even telephone calls to voters in marginal electorates. But where was the union back when the Rudd and Gillard Governments were bringing in foreign workers at record rates? We didn’t see anything like this union campaign back then.”
Ms Landry, Member for Capricornia, said Immigration Department figures showed 457 visa worker numbers topped 100,000 in both 2007-08 and 2008-09 – when Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister – and soared to more than 125,000 in both 2011-12 and 2012-13 – when Julia Gillard was PM.
“The work tests applied under ChAFTA will ensure 457 skilled work visas will only be issued if there are no Australians to do the jobs,” she said.
“People in Rockhampton are well aware of the positive role 457 visa-holders can play. For example, how would our abattoirs find enough staff if not for 457 visa-holders? In the beef capital of Australia, they are making a very important contribution to the economy of the city and the region.
“Under ChAFTA, any Chinese applicants for a 457 temporary work visa will still need to have the requisite skills, qualifications and work experience to work safely in Australia. They also will have to obtain any required Federal, State or Territory licences or registration to commence work, including workplace health and safety.”
Senator Canavan said Labor in government had facilitated foreign workers taking up jobs in Australia.
“In government, Labor won first prize on 457 visas. More were issued by them in history or since.
“It was the Gillard Government in early 2012 – when now Labor leader Bill Shorten was Workplace Relations Minister – that green-lighted 1,700 overseas guest workers for Gina Rinehart’s Roy Hill mine project under Labor’s Enterprise Migration Agreement scheme.
“The federal Labor candidate for Capricornia has already been stirring the pot, claiming that ChAFTA has the potential to put Australian jobs at risk.
“Well, in Rocky and the region, 457 visas are an important issue. What is her position on 457 visas? Does she think they are robbing locals of jobs in Central Queensland? Is she opposed to all 457 visa-holders or only some 457 visa-holders? These are the sort of questions she will have to answer.”