MP labels China trade agreement criticism a 'scare campaign'

FEDERAL member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd has responded to criticism levied at the Australia-China free trade agreement, calling the criticism "a scare campaign" after a flier lambasting the agreement was circulated by the CFMEU.

The flier claims that, among other things, Chinese companies investing more than $150 million can "bring their own workforces to Australia" without first offering jobs to Australian residents.

"This is an irresponsible a scare campaign, and the claims are both false and xenophobic," Mr O'Dowd said.

"It's extraordinary that the CFMEU is opposing an agreement that will result in new investment and new jobs for communities like Gladstone."

Australia's free trade agreement with China allows for the temporary use of skilled labour in the event that established local skills shortages which would hinder a project's development, but Mr O'Dowd stresses that this provision is not equivalent to international investors "bringing their own workforce".

"The provisions in the China FTA are consistent with provisions in trade agreements signed by Labor," he said.

"They are negotiated in a separate agreement outside the FTA and provide certainty for investment projects that will employ Australians and boost local economies."

Mr O'Dowd points towards the Infrastructure Facilitation Arrangement (IFA), which was negotiated in parallel to the FTA, and requires Chinese companies to be registered in Australia and comply with all Australian laws.

"This scheme offers large infrastructure investors insurance in the event that there is a labour shortage," the Flynn MP said.

"If labour shortages do occur, investors are able to negotiate bringing in temporary overseas skilled labour, but they are subject to the usual conditions of labour market analysis, English proficiency, and wage levels set by the existing 457 scheme."

Mr O'Dowd has expressed disappointment at the campaign being waged against the FTA, but believes residents in his electorate will see through the scare tactics.

"This is a completely dishonest campaign being brought against an agreement that will benefit small businesses and boost the local economy," he said.

"But it is also transparent and I have no doubt that people will be able to see through it for the rubbish that it is perpetuating."

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