Labor won’t just rubber stamp FTA: Shorten

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann believes Labor Leader Bill Shorten will eventually support the free trade agreement with China.

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But the opposition leader insists that while Labor is prepared to work with the government on the FTA, it doesn’t turn up to parliament just to rubber stamp its policies.

Senator Cormann again accused Labor of running a “racist, protectionist and dishonest campaign” against the deal.

“I don’t believe for one minute … when all the noise has subsided that Bill Shorten will stand in the way of stronger growth and more jobs which the free trade agreement with China will deliver,” Senator Cormann told Sky News on Sunday.

Labor senator Sam Dastyari thought Senator Cormann’s comments were “bordering on hysterical” and rejected being called a racist merely for having concerns about the FTA.

He said Labor had legitimate concerns about what the FTA will mean for Australian jobs, conditions and pay.

Mr Shorten said it’s possible to overcome these difficulties.

“But certainly we will be the guardian of Australian jobs,” he told reporters in Brisbane.

ACTU Secretary Dave Oliver says the union movement is not “anti-trade” and if issues, such as labour market testing, can be addressed “the agreement should go through”.

But he also told ABC television, he’s not convinced it’s going to create a significant number of local jobs.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists it poses no threat to Australian jobs and will in fact create more local jobs.

She doesn’t believe there will be a need to change the wording of the agreement, but like other FTAs with the US, Japan, South Korea, the one with China will go to a joint standing committee on treaties.

“That committee can have hearings, take evidence and receive submissions and give the evidence to the government, but I don’t believe there is any threat to Australian jobs,” she told the Ten Network.