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ACCI: labour movement changes under China agreements to 'benefit' Aust

13 July, 2015

According to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, construction projects will be more timely and cost effective under provisions in the China-Australia FTA and a separate MOU on Investment Facilitation Arrangements that allow for the use of overseas workers in some instances

Kate Carnell AO, CEO of Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), said: "Australia benefits from the advancement of construction projects, but in some cases these are constrained by a shortage of suitable local workers. In these cases it makes sense to allow for temporary skilled workers from overseas to fill the shortfall.

"ChAFTA and the MoU put in place protections to ensure the use of overseas workers benefits Australia. They ensure local pay and conditions are in place for overseas workers and that these workers have the skills to perform their job safely. Without these actions some projects will be delayed or face extra costs, constraining our economic growth.

"It is disappointing that some groups have stoked fear among Australians that the agreement would lead to unqualified overseas workers. This campaign is damaging to Australia's interests and our relationship with China, a key trading partner.

"Some ACCI members had initial concerns about trade skills assessment processes under ChAFTA, but further investigation has assuaged these concerns.

"ChAFTA ensures that Australia treats China like it does most other countries in the movement of people, removing it from a list of 10 countries where separate visa rules were in place.

"These separate rules involved an additional requirement for skilled workers from these 10 countries to apply under the existing 457 visa program: a compulsory skills assessment before a national could apply for a visa.

"China will now join the vast majority of countries for which nationals only need to undertake a skills assessment when insufficient evidence of their skills has been supplied in the visa application.

"All Chinese 457 visa holders will still be required to hold all necessary licences and certification required by Australian federal, state and territory laws and regulations. The 457 visa is only available in cases where a business cannot find an Australian citizen or permanent resident to do the skilled work.

"Australians can be assured that only suitably qualified workers from China will be able to work in Australia.

"The increased movement of people should be celebrated as part of the process of global economic engagement. The debate on this issue demonstrates the need for business and other stakeholders to be consulted during negotiations over trade agreements."