Alan Jones: Andrew Robb, good morning.
Andrew Robb: Good morning Alan.
Alan Jones: Why don’t you put the boot in?
Andrew Robb: We have been attempting to; there has been endless coverage in some of the papers.
Alan Jones: I asked my team to tell you off-air, that the argument that is read by people listening to you every day, is that Chinese companies for projects over $150 million dollars will be able to bring their own workforce into the country and they won’t have to offer the jobs to local workers first. That’s what they say; it’s not true.
Andrew Robb: It’s not true. The blue collar workers don’t have one thing to worry about. Nothing has changed in terms of worker protections compared to all the other agreements that have been done; some of them by the Labor Party. You’ve just made this point, nothing has changed. It was an area that I knew, as the negotiator with my team, that if we had a cigarette paper of difference between existing laws and the China deal, that we would have a big problem. Now we have ended up with not a cigarette paper between what existed over several years now – including during the time of the Labor Government – but nevertheless, as you said, the CFMEU want to get rid of the Government. They’ve got a war chest so massive that it is a great worry for the country. They are spreading vicious lies.
Alan Jones: Let me just repeat this for our listeners so we understand. They get their money from the union movement, now the union movement are propped up at the national conference and they made sure that Shorten stayed as leader; Shorten is a former AWU bloke. It’s an average of $900 that a unionist pays in dues. They have access to 1.8 million workers dues, that is $1.6 billion, which is funding all these campaigns. So you’ve got to explain have you not, see they use all this jargon; ‘labour market testing’ and ‘there will be no labour market testing,’ can you just explain what that means?
Andrew Robb: What that means is that if you wished as a company – whether you are Chinese or anyone else – to bring in people from overseas because you claim that there aren’t workers in Australia either available or with the right skills, then you have to go out and for six months you have to demonstrate that you have advertised for these people in Australia, and how many people responded, what their skills were; it is quite an extensive and costly exercise.
Alan Jones: Okay now stop there. Now, there are exemptions to labour market testing and this is where you believe people are being blown away, in other words there are skill level three – we won’t go into the detail – but they have a level of skills commensurate with Australian regulations basically, I think it’s called the Australian qualification framework, which is a national policy for regulated qualifications in Australian education and training, so there is an exception for skill level three and you have granted this exception for skill level three for what is called this thing about testing the labour market, but that was Rudd Government policy wasn’t it; that was Labor Government policy?
Andrew Robb: They brought that back in…
Alan Jones: But you are not getting that point.
Andrew Robb: Well when you are up against 12 million dollars’ worth of ads and robocalls; the night that the agreement was signed in June and we released thousands of pages of text, literally two or three hours later, the unions were running ads on the television. They went into about 12 electorates; there are 70,000 households in each electorate. They telephoned – with these robotic calls – 70,000 homes in each electorate times 12, and they said ‘you are going to lose your job, this is an outrageous thing, they have scrapped labour market testing.’ They’d had no opportunity to see the detail.
Alan Jones: So it has nothing to do with free trade, the aim is to knock off the Abbott Government.
Andrew Robb: Exactly.
Alan Jones: Now just on this other lingo. Investment Facilitation Agreements; now these operated under the Labor Government, and the Coalition Government. Investment Facilitation Agreements; that is where we start working on the program of what we are going to do in Australia and how much money we are going to invest in Australia and so on; and there used to be – was there not, am I right in saying – that it applied when a project exceeded $2 billion? That has been reduced to $150 million.
Andrew Robb: That is the only difference; all the worker protections are identical. In fact ours are stronger. We based it on a program, that they (Labor) really set up for a Gina Rinehart project in the first instance, because there was no labour around and in the end she didn’t have to use it but she needed 5,000 workers fairly quickly. They put this program in place and the protections they had in there, we have actually bolstered those protections. That’s what we modelled it on.
Alan Jones: But Bill Shorten said in the Canning by-election that a company could come in and quote: ‘build a new hotel in the CBD without first trying to employ local workers.’ Those were his exact words. Haven’t we got to say to people, hang on: no matter what workers you pay under the Investment Facilitation Agreement, you must pay them under Australian law; the rates, the wages, safety laws, the lot.
Andrew Robb: To be honest we have, and I just say that the union advertising overwhelms; you go up the coast to Mackay and there are huge billboards as you drive in saying ‘Tony Abbott is going to cost you your job.’
Alan Jones: Well introduce truth in advertising legislation; it is an offence to advertise lies. Surely we should have that.
Andrew Robb: Those things have been tried; it is difficult because who is going to determine it.
Alan Jones: Okay we’ve only got a few minutes so let’s just turn the page over. You used to head up the National Farmers; are we going to stand by, and this is red hot, we’ve got the Kidman empire up for sale and we are talking about land as big as the size of Wales and Ireland. How do we allow – because you say they can’t take the land away – but they can take the wealth. Now for example, if I had a million acres and I sold it to Andrew Robb, Andrew Robb pays me the million and I pay the capital gains tax and that’s it. Next year I get nothing out of that because that’s Andrew Robb’s and I get nothing the year after because I’ve sold the wealth to Andrew Robb. Surely if we are selling the dairy farms, and selling the Kidman empire to an outfit which unapologetically says we want to be the biggest agricultural owner in Australia and we’re selling millions of acres, aren’t we selling our wealth?
Andrew Robb: No, the thing is we get the tax from anything produced on that place. Usually people coming in and buying some of these assets, they bring money with them and they build capital and they put capital in and they innovate, they improve and this money goes into local towns and this creates jobs in these places.
Alan Jones: Where do we put the full stop in? So Kidman and Co are 11 million hectares; 180,000 head of cattle. The Packers’ Consolidated Pastoral; 375,000 head of cattle. We’re talking about a billion dollars here.
Andrew Robb: Where does Australia get the benefit?
Alan Jones: I don’t know.
Andrew Robb: Well I’m telling you.
Alan Jones: You know more than I do then.
Andrew Robb: They then sell this produce and a lot of it is exported.
Alan Jones: But it’s China’s produce.
Andrew Robb: But they pay major levels of tax on the profits that they make on these properties. That is where we get our taxation from. Also they make massive investments in their local areas and their properties and in the processing works and all the rest, which creates jobs for Australians in the local and regional areas. It puts money in the local economy.
Alan Jones: We have been beaten by the bell but let’s come back and talk foreign ownership alone.
Andrew Robb: Alright, I’m very happy to.
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