Australia’s Oldest Workers Union Leads a Call to Stand Up to Chinese Regime

May 14, 2020 Updated: May 21, 2020

One of Australia’s oldest and largest workers unions has launched a national campaign to support the Morrison government in its trade dispute with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Starting on May 14, the “We Won’t Be Bullied By China” campaign by the Australian Workers Union (AWU) has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison “to stand up to China’s bullying, protect Australian sovereignty and jobs, and work with nations that support free and fair trade.”

According to the AWU, the latest CCP trade tariffs are due to our legal challenge of China’s dumping of steel and aluminum products at below-market prices in Australia and the Morrison government’s pursuit of the COVID-19 inquiry.

The AWU has called the tariffs a trade violation that “aims to destroy Australia’s industries and make us more reliant on foreign supply.”

Initiating the campaign with a letter (pdf) to Morrison, AWU’s National Secretary Dan Walton said: “It is critical that the Australian Government holds its nerve against such pressure and enforces its international and domestic rights.”

Asserting that China’s “‘tit-for-tat’ trade sanctioning is at best a breach of the established laws and the norms of the World Trade Organisation and at worst amounts to an unconscionable form of trade coercion and bullying.”

Walton said, “These are not the actions of sophisticated nation-states that accept global rules of trade or law.”

Continuing Walton said “Submitting to the preferred trade arrangement of the Chinese Communist Party—one where
high performance in Australian agriculture is punished and cheating in metals manufacturing is rewarded—would be a total inversion of how trade works in a free, fair multilateral system.”

The AWU National Secretary also wrote on Twitter that the AWU would expect the prime minister to stand up to the CCP’s threats and trade cheating.

AWU Stance Splitting Labor

The AWU has traditionally been the support base of the Australian Labor Party (ALP), so its declaration of support for the prime minister, and the Coalition has placed the union at odds with the ALP.

Speaking to the Australian on May 14, Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese dismissed the comments as “nothing new.”

“That letter could have been written by any AWU secretary since 1891,” he said.

However, former ALP leader Bill Shorten supported the move, writing on Twitter that the AWU was right to stand up for Australia’s sovereignty and that every nation should play by the rules.

ALP Senator for Victoria Kimberly Kitching also supported the move by the AWU. Commenting in a post on Twitter she said the AWU had shone a light on the truth of our trading relationship with China. She also noted that billionaires urging blind compliance with China were a disgrace.

Morrison thanked the AWU for its support on May 14 noting that Australians “will always stand our ground when it comes to the things that we believe in and the values that we uphold.”

“Australia is one of the great trading nations of the world” and we pursue trade in all countries wherever there is an opportunity,” said the Morrison.

“But what we will never do is trade away our values,” he added.