Carrie Lam and Clover Moore
Hong Kong Chief Secretary Carrie Lam (R) and Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore shake hands before the start of their meeting at the Sydney Town Hall September 17, 2015. Lam is on a two-day official visit to Australia to discuss the free trade agreement (FTA) between China and Australia and begin negotiations with Hong Kong as the special administrative region of China. Reuters/Peter Parks/Pool

The Turnbull government will hold “constructive” talks with the opposition on passing the China-Australia free trade agreement, according to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. He said the talks would be based on the exposure draft released by Labor on Tuesday.

Shorten said the talks would ensure that the trade agreement was in favour of the Australian workers. “The new safeguards will allow Australian exporters and consumers to secure the benefits of ChAFTA while ensuring the trade deal does not jeopardise employment opportunities for Australian workers,” Shorten told reporters in Canberra.

“Labor’s safeguards are complementary to ChAFTA: they will not breach the agreement, they will not require it to be renegotiated and they will not discriminate against Chinese workers or companies – in fact they will improve protections for Chinese and other 457 visa workers in Australia.”

As a part of its amendments to the China trade agreement, Labor wants a raise in the minimum pay for overseas workers on 457 visas from $53,000 a year to $57,000. It demands that 457 visa workers must get necessary registrations or licences for skilled jobs like plumbing and electrical work. The licences must be obtained within 60 days of their arrival in the country.

Labor also wants the Migration Act for employers under Investment Facilitation Arrangement to be amended so that jobs can be promoted locally before they can be offered to foreign workers.

Shorten said such conditions would ensure job opportunities for local workers. “These safeguards will support local job opportunities, support Australian wages and conditions, maintain workplace skills and safety standards, and deter exploitation of overseas workers,’’ Shorten said.

The amendments proposed by Labor is a combined effort by Shorten and trade spokesperson Penny Wong, The Guardian reported. The idea is to overcome political conflict over the China trade deal.

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