7 News - 25 September 2019
Indonesia trade deal faces Senate hurdles
The minister responsible for striking international trade deals is trying to ease concerns about a potential influx of Indonesian workers.
Parliament will soon be asked to ratify an Indonesian free-trade agreement.
Unions are worried the deal will open the door to 5000 temporary workers.
Trade Minister Simon Birmingham insists the agreement won’t come at the cost of Australian jobs.
"There are no waivers to labour market testing," Senator Birmingham told ABC radio on Wednesday.
"The 5000 visa category holders that are spoken of are working holiday-makers, the same that Australia has received from the UK or Europe or other parts of the world for a very long period of time."
Anthony Albanese is under pressure from union bosses not to support the proposal.
But Mr Albanese recently used his first overseas trip as Labor leader to talk up trade ties in Indonesia.
The opposition has not yet declared which way it will vote on the agreement.
"Given global trade tensions, it is imperative that Australia diversifies its comprehensive economic partnerships and trade relationships," Labor’s trade spokeswoman Madeleine King told AAP.
"Labor will continue to speak with stakeholders, within the labour movement and beyond, to ensure we reach a consensus position on this agreement."
One Nation leader Pauline Hanson, Rex Patrick of the Centre Alliance Party and and Greens are against various aspects of the agreement, meaning the coalition will probably need Labor’s support.
Senator Birmingham has said he would like to push it through parliament by the end of the year.
National Farmers Federation chief executive Tony Mahar warned against allowing farmers’ interests to be compromised by short-term partisan politics.
"That’s even more relevant as drought continues to devastate rural and regional Australia," Mr Mahar told The Australian.
"The last thing we need is politicking over a trade agreement which gives farmers hope for big new markets and more export opportunities."
The deal would lift the cap on 12-month visas from the current 1000 a year to 4100 in the first year and then to 5000 a year by the sixth year.
"We are deeply concerned that the Morrison government has done yet another dodgy deal that opens the door to an increased number of temporary workers being exploited when we should be prioritising hiring and training local workers," ACTU president Michele O’Neil said.