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Finally, Movement on the ChAFTA, but Greater Urgency Needed

Posted on October 13, 2015 at 11:25 PM

After months languishing in the Australian Parliament, it seems the ratification of the Australia China Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA) will finally happen.

Reports in today's press indicate that Bill Shorten's Labor Party, having blocked the passage of the ChAFTA to date, have now put forward conditions to the Government in exchange for their support. The conditions include increasing the minimum wage for 457 visas from $53,000 to $57,000 per annum and amending the Migration Act to force employers with projects over $150 million to seek domestic workers before accepting any foreign labour.

Apart from demonstrating Labor's ignorance of the realities of business (Can they afford an extra $4,000 p.a.? Will 457 employees be immediately productive in a new culture with an unfamiliar language?), their conditions also demonstrate the ALP's preference for politics over good policy. Federal Trade & Investment Minister Andrew Robb had this to say: "the Opposition is looking for comfort through the introductions of provisions that in fact already exist".

Already the delay in ratifiying the ChAFTA has cost the Australian economy hundreds of millions of dollars, so assurances that it will be done by Christmas fall well short of what is needed. It is already mid October and Christmas is more than 2 months away. Every stop must be pulled out by the Government to ensure the ChAFTA passes both Houses of Parliament as a matter of urgency.

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