The peak body for working people has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to put Australia’s trade deal with Hong Kong on hold until concerns around human rights abuses of pro-democracy protestors are resolved.
The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties is hearing evidence around the proposed deal in Melbourne this week.
The protests began in response to the proposed extradition bill that could have seen political dissidents tried in China’s mainland courts. The protests have continued across Hong Kong for three months in the semi-autonomous territory.
The ACTU has long-held concerns over the Morrison Government’s approach to trade agreements. The Coalition’s trade record has been to allow deals that would see employers being able to employ easily exploited temporary visa holders without first hiring locally, and that would let foreign companies sue Australian Governments.
Quotes attributable to ACTU President Michele O’Neil:
“It is important that Australia shows its support for human rights and democracy in Hong Kong and ensures that these values are upheld.
“Given the escalating events taking place in Hong Kong, the ACTU calls on the government to delay the enabling legislation of the Australia-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement.
“The agreement has serious issues. It restricts the ability of governments to administer essential services like schools, hospitals, water and power in the public interest. And it lets foreign companies sue Australian Governments in offshore trade tribunals for making laws they don’t like.
“At a time of growing international uncertainty around trade, it is important that Australia treads cautiously with regard to an agreement with a territory that is experiencing significant political upheaval and instability.
“The ACTU supports a peaceful resolution to the current unrest in Hong Kong and stands in solidarity with the working people represented by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions as they participate in peaceful industrial action in support of democracy.”