The ACTU welcomes this opportunity to input into the Foreign Policy White Paper. The ACTU is Australia’s national confederation of unions, representing 47 affiliates and over 1.8 million workers across all industries in the Australian economy. We continue to engage with our counterparts in the world and in the region, building on the long history of cooperation and collaboration that we share with them. That history includes:

a) ACTU affiliation to and participation in the activities of the International Trade Union Confederation and its regional body ITUC-Asia Pacific;

b) Active participation in Global Union federations;

c) Membership of and support for the ILO;

d) Bilateral relationships with union peak council organisations in the world, including the VGCL in Vietnam and ACFTU in China which are not affiliated to the ITUC;

e) Support for development projects through APHEDA1, the global justice organization of the union movement.

Further, the ACTU regularly meets with visiting delegations from employers, governments and civil society groups from our region, and participates in regional workshops, seminars and conferences.

Australia must have a clear plan to address inequality at home and abroad, and that plan must be supported by engagement between government and key social partners. Australian Unions have a proud history of being partners in ongoing economic and social development in the face of tremendous economic upheaval and in advocating for responsible reform to support and enhance the capability of our workforce. We have likewise been partners in business transformation at the workplace level to build productivity through skills, investment and collaboration. We have never advocated a race to the bottom or the demolition of our social safety net as the key to maintaining global competitiveness, and we never will. The White Paper provides an opportunity for Australia to take positive steps to act both in the interests of Australia but also the global community of nations.

The White paper Terms of Reference identified key areas for discussion including relationships with international partners; use of multilateral structures; trade and exports; promotions of regulations and standards internationally; dealing with security risks; promoting prosperity and stability through aid, investment in skills and education and strengthening our relationships in Asia.

The purpose of this report is to set out the Australian union movement’s response to some of these priorities and to signal our ongoing commitment to working with governments, business and the wider community to build stronger and fairer societies, which are more just, more equitable and more prosperous.

We will not be commenting on the specifics of current geopolitical issues as we neither have the resources nor want to lose focus on the key issues we feel are central to these deliberations. We have, however, appended the ACTU’s 2015 Congress policies covering international issues which should be taken into account.

In addition the recommendations focus both on what we should be doing in Australia as well as promoting overseas if the Australian Government wants to play a global leadership role.