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Crisis to worsen under FTA: union

The Age, Melbourne

Crisis to worsen under FTA: union

Ian Porter

26 June 2006

The crisis in the automotive components sector will continue to worsen as long as the Federal Government permits unfair international competition and refuses to implement a strategic industry policy.

Factory closures and redundancies in the past two years have eroded the fabric of the industry and left it close to a tipping point, a House of Representatives committee inquiry into employment in the sector will be told today.

The unfair competition will only increase if the Government enters a free trade agreement with China, the national secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, Doug Cameron, told The Age.

Mr Cameron will present the union’s submission to the committee this morning, along with Ford Australia and other manufacturers.

"The main competition is out of China, where the workers have no human rights, no trade union rights, where the environment is being destroyed, where the yuan is undervalued and health and safety is non-existent in some plants," Mr Cameron said.

"That’s not fair competition."

Mr Cameron said Australia should not give China market economy status and sign a free trade agreement. "It would not even be a free trade agreement," he said. "It would be a preferential trade agreement. Granting them market economy status rewards them for all their bad behaviour."

Car makers had been giving their parts contracts to overseas sources and this was gutting the parts sector, he said. The local content of the Commodore, Falcon and Camry was falling, with the new VE Commodore expected to have only 55 per cent. "Almost nine in 10 Victorian parts suppliers had been forced to accept lower selling prices," he said. "More than 60 per cent of them had still lost contracts in 2003-04."