Bob Kinnaird. China FTA and a diplomatic appointment.

Sep 23, 2015

As the government’s exaggerated claims of economic benefit and job creation from ChAFTA are increasingly exposed, the lead DFAT negotiator on the China FTA is set to be appointed the next Australian Ambassador to China.

According to reports in the Australian Financial Review and Crikey, Ms Jan Adams DFAT Deputy Secretary was nominated before the ousting of Mr Abbott to take up the Beijing position this December. The reports say the new Prime Minister Mr Turnbull is likely to endorse the appointment of Ms Adams, who apparently has the backing of Foreign Minister Bishop and Trade Minister Robb.

Ms Adams, who was also lead Australian negotiator on the FTAs with Korea and Japan as well as China, recently appeared before the Treaties Committee on ChAFTA. In her evidence, she lamented the ‘circulation of misinformation about particular aspects of the Agreement’ including the contentious labour mobility provisions.

However, at the committee hearing on 7 September it was not Ms Adams but an Immigration official who cleared up one of the key pieces of ‘misinformation’ about ChAFTA that DFAT and the government have been happy to let run.

After persistent questioning from Labor MP Kelvin Thomson, DIBP’s Mr David Wilden conceded that at present labour market testing (LMT) applies to 457 sponsors nominating all Chinese nationals in Skill level 3 (mainly trades), engineering and nursing occupations; and that once ChAFTA enters into force, they will not be subject to LMT in these occupations.

The officials should have added (but did not) that once ChAFTA enters into force, the Australian government will permanently give up the right to apply labour market testing to Chinese nationals in all other occupations in the standard 457 visa program as well.

Currently these other 457 occupations are LMT-exempt simply by Coalition government policy written into a legislative instrument providing LMT exemptions on occupational grounds. Before ChAFTA, these ‘occupational’ LMT exemptions could be changed by any Australian government at any time. But after ChAFTA, the 457 LMT exemptions for Chinese nationals become exemptions due to Australia’s ‘international trade obligations’ and are effectively irreversible.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade will shortly have a second opportunity to question officials including Ms Adams on ChAFTA when it examines the China FTA after the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties reports.

Hopefully that exercise can shed even more light on how Australia’s immigration policy is being made subordinate to trade policy and binding trade agreements, and Australia’s capacity to make migration laws is being eroded and ultimately surrendered.


Bob Kinnaird is Research Associate with The Australian Population Research Institute and was National Research Director CFMEU National Office 2009-14.


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