Interview with Andrew O’Keefe and Monique Wright – Weekend Sunrise – Saturday, 22 April 2017


 SUBJECT: Turnbull Government refuses to rule out removing Labour Market Testing from future trade deals 

JOURNALIST: So joining us to discuss this is Trade Minister Steven Ciobo and Opposition Trade Minister Jason Clare. Good morning to you both.

Steven to you first. The Prime Minister criticised exactly these kinds of changes to the visa program in the past, now he’s using them, he says, to boost Australian jobs. Are we really seeing him come out with these populist policies because he saw that Trump was so successful in the US?

STEVEN CIOBO, MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT: Not at all. The reforms that were made in the past were ineffectual. These are reforms that we’ve targeted because we saw for example when Labor was last in power, a big spike in the number of 457 workers. The principle behind this is quite straight forward. What we want to say is that if there’s a job available it should first go to an Australian worker wherever possible and only then, if there’s a genuine workplace shortage, should it go to a foreign worker.

JOURNALIST: Steve I think most people would agree with that and that’s always been the basis of the 457 Visa program but many analysists are saying there has been very little substantiative change to the regime. I mean we’ve renamed it a bit, we’ve carved it off into two pieces, we’ve eliminated a bunch of jobs that people weren’t filling anyway.

JOURNALIST: Like goat farmers.

JOURNALIST: So yes it’s a massive policy announcement but don’t you think it’s more about politics than policy.

CIOBO: No but the whole point of this is the change in those occupations that are listed as being eligible. See this is the point. You talk about goat herders and clearly we don’t need goat herders. So what we want to do is ensure the list best reflects and is much more contemporary with the current labour market needs. So in other words we don’t want people on there who are going to be coming into jobs that one, Australians are available to work in and two, want to work in. What we want to do, and take for example tourism and hospitality, that’s an area I know pretty well. They have a huge demand for workers in the hospitality sector because they cannot get people. So we want to make sure they can get people for those jobs but for other jobs that Aussies could do. I mean we saw for example under Bill Shorten when people were being brought in on 457 Visas to flip burgers in take away convenience stores, MacDonald’s and places like that.

JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE AND INVESTMENT: It’s designed to make Malcolm Turnbull look tough but really it doesn’t make much difference at all. As you said they’re banning people from coming in to do jobs like goat herding or deer farming. They may as well ban people from coming in and being Jedis or town criers.

What Malcolm Turnbull and Steve don’t tell you is that while they’re talking tough about protecting Australian jobs, they’re actually, through the deals they’re making with other countries, making it easier for workers from foreign countries to come into the country. You should have to check first if there is an Australian who can do the job.

JOURNALIST: But Labor has advocated much the same thing in the past?

CLARE: What we’ve said is that before someone comes in to do a job, you should check if there’s an Aussie who can do it first. And through some of the trade deals this government’s done they’ve made it easier for people to come in because they’ve waived that responsibility for companies to check first if there’s an Australian who can do the job.

Steve you’re negotiating a number of deals with different countries at the moment – will you rule out waiving that responsibility on Australian companies to check first if there’s an Australian who can do the job before you bring in people from other countries?

CIOBO: See this is the thing Andrew and what Jason doesn’t tell you…

CLARE: Will you rule it out?

CIOBO: What Jason doesn’t say is that when they were in Government, they put in place three trade deals…

CLARE: You’re dodging and avoiding the issue.

CIOBO: Actually I’m answering it if you’d give me a chance to answer it.

CLARE: Well you’re dodging and avoiding. Will you rule it out? Will you rule it out?

CIOBO: Ok I’ll answer right now. When you were in power there were three FTAs you put in place – Chile, Malaysia and one in ASEAN. Labor never mandated requirements for labour market testing. Never did it.

CLARE: You’re wrong.  

JOURNALIST: Ok so moving forward?

CIOBO: Well we’re going to look at it and we’ll make sure that any free trade agreement we go into is entirely consistent with the announcement we just made.

CLARE: So he’s refused to rule it out. Which means Malcolm Turnbull sounds tough protecting Aussie jobs and then they’re going to do deals with other countries which makes it easier for people to come in.

JOURNALIST: Watch this space by the look of it.