House debates

Thursday, 13 September 2018


Customs Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018, Customs Tariff Amendment (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership Implementation) Bill 2018; Second Reading

12:51 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Infrastructure) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I talked about the member for Kennedy continuing to offer confidence to a government that has sold out this nation by including labour market testing exemptions in this trade agreement and that's a matter of fact. That's a fact. This is incredibly worrying that we see an exemption from labour market testing being rolled out to six countries—Canada, Peru, Mexico, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam. This diminishes our ability to regulate temporary skilled migration in our country and that is very worrying. It is driving massive job insecurity. We have over a million people in this country who have work rights on temporary visas.

I support permanent migration. Permanent migration has made this nation. I'm a proud child of migrants but they should be permanent migrants with all the rights that native-born Australians have. They should have all the rights—the right to strike, the right to unionise, the right to get the same pay—and those rights aren't afforded to those on temporary skilled visas. Those workers have no rights because they have no bargaining power. At a flick of a thumb, an employer can basically sack them and they get deported overseas. That's why it's so important that, before we allow temporary skilled visas to be issued, the employer does three things: first, they demonstrate the position cannot be filled by an Australian at the market rate of pay—not the minimum rate of pay but the market rate of pay; second, they pay the migrant, the visa holder, the market rate of pay, not minimum pay; and, third, they actually invest in training so an Australian can fill the job in the long term. This agreement undermines that by exempting labour market testing for visa applicants from those six countries.

Just as worrying is skills recognition. This agreement means a Peruvian electrician's qualifications must be accepted as the same as an Australian electrician or a Chilean or a Mexican electrician or a Canadian electrician. It is abhorrent that we don't have skills testing because that goes to a safety issue that both the industry group for the electoral industry and the trade union representing the electrical industry, the ETU, have raised a huge concern over. This, yet again, is this government giving away our immigration policy. This is a party that is supposedly so strong on border protection, but it's giving away our immigration policy for gains for certain sectors, particularly its supporters in the agricultural and resources industries, and its giving away our immigration policy to reward its mates in mining and agriculture, and I think that's deeply problematic. And that's why it's so important that Labor has given a commitment to end this.

Labor will do two things. If we're privileged enough to win government, if we are lucky enough to win government, the new minister for trade, the member for Blaxland, will immediately start to renegotiate this agreement. He will negotiate side letters with the six nations that have this labour market testing exemption to get that removed so that we can continue to apply labour market testing to temporary skilled migrants coming from those six countries and he will also negotiate with Canada to remove the ISDS clause. This can be done with side letters. I'm very encouraged that the minister for trade in a future Labor government—if we're privileged enough to be elected—will work on that very quickly and directly. That's an important step to fixing up this Trans-Pacific Partnership, something this government won't do, something this government cares nothing about.

The second measure which I'm even more enthused about is that a future Labor government will implement the most progressive trade policy this nation has seen in the last 40 years by undertaking a number of measures. They include a legislated prohibition on future trade agreements containing waivers of labour market testing, prohibiting future governments from negotiating trade agreements that waive mandatory skills testing and prohibiting future governments from including ISDS clauses in trade agreements. That is incredibly important.

Mr Katter interjecting

I'm hearing gibbering from the cheap seats over there. The truth is Independents can't deliver this. The member for Kennedy can't deliver this. The member for Kennedy has been in this place since 1990 or 1993. I honour his long service to the nation, but he hasn't changed a trade debate one iota because he can't form government. He had a three-year window in a minority government when he could have done something, but yet again he didn't do something about it. That's why I'm so proud that a future Labor government will end this.


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