NSW Labor leader Luke Foley has called on his federal counterpart Bill Shorten to help secure a free trade deal with China.
Mr Foley on Wednesday added his voice to those of other state Labor leaders, premiers Jay Weatherill and Daniel Andrews, in urging Mr Shorten to support an agreement that he says will support jobs here at home.
“Our future economic prosperity will be based, above all else, on higher exports – particularly from non-mining goods and services,” Mr Foley told reporters in Sydney.
Mr Foley said Mr Shorten was “right to be examining the detail” but should follow the lead of past Labor greats Gough Whitlam and Neville Wran in forging stronger ties with Beijing.
“Labor should build on that tradition, support trade agreements,” he said.
“Of course we should be discussing the detail; we should be discussing the labour standards, and I hope the federal government and opposition will reach agreement on the detail – that’s in the national interest.”
He said he had not experienced any push-back from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), which has launched an advertising campaign warning the deal will allow Chinese companies to bring in workers at the expense of Australian jobs.
He also dismissed suggestions the union’s campaign was tinged with xenophobia.
“I think the blue-collar unions, particularly in the construction industry, are right to raise concerns on behalf of the workers they represent,” he told reporters.
The CFMEU has form in running China-focused campaigns in NSW.
In the lead-up to the state poll in March, the union backed a series of television ads that questioned whether the Baird government was prepared to hand control of state electricity infrastructure to China’s State Grid Corporation.
Those advertisements were described as xenophobic and “fear-mongering” by Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.