Big miners’ ChAFTA words ring hollow

Etu National

A leading union secretary has hit back at two mining executives quoted in this morning’s Australian newspaper on the Turnbull government’s trade deal with China.

“When Australians hear Roy Hill and Fortescue executives start to make recommendations about labour migration, they are right to be extremely suspicious,” Electrical Trades Union national secretary Allen Hicks said.

Roy Hill is backed by West Australian mining magnate Gina Rhinehart, who is on the record saying Australian workers must lower their expectations to compete with the $2-a-day paid in third-world countries. 

"Any reasonable person would agree that job opportunities should first be provided to Australians who have the skills and experience necessary to do the tasks and that business should train young Australians to do the jobs of the future,” Mr Hicks said. “If migrant workers are required after those options have been exhausted they should be permanent migrants, granted full Australian conditions and wages.” 

Mr Hicks said the wind-down of the mining boom and falling commodities prices were not excuses for mining companies to abandon Australian workers.

“If these companies are looking to reduce their costs it should not be at the expense of Australian workers,” he said.

Fortescue Metals’ tax history was also a reason to treat their words with caution, Mr Hicks said.

“The company avoided paying $24 million in tax last year,” he said. “They paid no tax at all in 2010.” 

“If they are serious about contributing to the prosperity of this country, they should pay what they owe.”

Mr Hicks also hit back at the claims of xenophobia that have been levelled at opponents of the deal in its present form. 

"To suggest we are xenophobic is disgraceful. This country was built on migrant labour, and we are proud to have been part of that.

"We’re not opposed to a trade agreement with China in principle. But we make no apology for our campaign against the agreement in its present form. Without safeguards in place to protect jobs, safety and sovereignty, the current China FTA simply isn’t good enough.” 

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