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Graziers in Queensland have welcomed a deal with China but animal rights groups are outra

Graziers in Queensland have welcomed a deal with China but animal rights groups are outraged. Picture: Cleo Fraser / AAP. Source: AAP

A SERIES of new television advertisements are scaring the pants off working class Aussies.

They paint a picture of an invading force of Chinese workers ready to steal our jobs and overrun our workforce.

It’s fearmongering about the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (ChAFTA)courtesy of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. And it’s working.

In one ad, a young family sits around a breakfast table. Dad reads the newspaper and, to his shock, discovers that Canberra and Beijing have agreed to terms on open borders and lucrative trade.

“I can’t believe they’ve done it,” he says to his son, a young jobseeker.

“(Tony Abbott is) bringing in Chinese workers. He doesn’t even have to advertise the jobs. Sorry, but you won’t even get a look in, son.”

The ads are part of a push-back against the ChAFTA, signed in June, and play on fears the agreement will be one-sided and damaging for everyday Australians.

But how true are the claims? The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) website says it is a myth that companies will have unrestricted access to Chinese workers for major projects, threatening Australian jobs.

The ChAFTA talks led to a separate agreement that allows Chinese companies that invest more than $150 million in specific types of infrastructure to have “increased access” to skilled overseas workers when locals couldn’t be found.

DFAT argues the agreement will actually create more jobs for Australians.

“Australian workers will continue to be given first opportunity,” the site reads.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb said the unions’ claims were simply a “dishonest scare campaign”.

“These unions are running an anti-trade and anti-Coalition government agenda,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“For once they should put the national interest ahead of their own narrow self-interest.”

He said Chinese visa applicants would be subjected to the same assessment process as applicants from about 150 countries, and would have to meet the skills level needed to work safely in Australia.

And despite the fears the ads have created, on a farm in outback Queensland, struggling farmer Matt Bennetto is punching the air.

He knows exactly what the agreement means for him. It means he gets to put food on the table and feed his young family.

Part of the agreement will see cattle, just like the 350 he’s raised an hour west of Townsville, be sent to China where there is a growing demand for beef products.

Details of the deal are still forthcoming, but hundreds-of-thousands of Aussie cattle are expected to be shipped to China each year.

For a farmer suffering through years of drought and unstable overseas markets, the deal is a huge victory. And it’s a huge relief.

Mr Bennetto has seen the ups and downs of unstable overseas markets and watched as dodgy slaughterhouses gave his industry a bad name.

He’s been forced into prematurely selling three-quarters of his cattle to keep food on his children’s plates.

Despite everything, he says he wouldn’t leave the farming life for anything. Thanks to free trade agreement with China, he likely won’t have to.

“Typically we run about 1700 head of cattle a year but right now we have probably about 350,” Mr Bennetto told news.com.au.

Matt Bennetto’s farm, soon to be providing cattle for China.

Matt Bennetto’s farm, soon to be providing cattle for China. Source: NewsComAu

“It’s just been a dry year, a very dry year for us here.”

A dry year for Mr Bennetto and his three young children means “seven inches of rain out front and about 3-4 inches out back”.

The drought and the CFMEU TV ads are not the only things he’s up against. In the coming weeks, buses, taxis and billboards across Australia’s capital cities will be plastered with campaign material tugging at the heartstrings of Australia’s animal lovers.

The ads, calling for a ban on live animal exports, will feature a crying bull and the words: “Some trips should never be taken”.

It’s the animal activists’ response to the deal with China, one they say is “all bad”.

Animals Australia says the concept of sending cattle to a country that hosts a dog eating festival is “disturbing, to say the least”.

Animals Australia released a statement last week urging the government to change its mind. It said rules set up to protect cattle from cruelty are “a sham”.

“They aren’t properly enforced. They are continually breached. And we are invariably witnessing horrific violence and brutal slaughter as a result,” the statement said.

Mr Bennetto said the campaigns against the live export trade are “a lot of melodramatic hysteria” and “completely unnecessary”, but they’re nothing new.

In 2011, ABC1’s Four Corners exposed the mistreatment of Australian cattle exported to Indonesia. The program showed how cattle were kept in restraint boxes, abused and suffered slow and torturous deaths.

The joint investigation with Animals Australia and the RSCPA led to tough new regulations aimed at protecting Australian cattle.

The following year, a similar investigation revealed how 20,000 Australian sheep had been cruelly slaughtered in Pakistan.

Indonesia recently slashed the number of cattle it was accepting from Queensland farmers, in large part because of criticism from the Australian government over the executions of drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during the signing ceremony of the deal with

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during the signing ceremony of the deal with China. Picture: Lukas CochSource: AFP

Mr Bennetto said the China deal will take years to flesh out but he is confident China will be forced to adhere to “onerous and rigorous” standards. He says he wouldn’t send his cattle there if they were going to be mistreated.

“The China deal involves very small numbers, about 20,000 next year for the first few years, so we can make the system water tight. It’s exciting but it will take some time to nurture.

“We take so much pride in our animals and we try and do the best we can by the animal for their whole life here.

“We, more than anyone, would be so disappointed to see anything happen to the animals overseas.”

The deal is a security blanket for Mr Bennetto and his wife Sonia who just eight weeks ago gave birth to the couple’s third child.

On his farm, hours away from the nearest city, hours away from the noise, Mr Bennetto is aware of those who are critical of the China deal but he tries to tune them out. He has to.

“Our business is so vulnerable to politics,” he said.

And to drought. And to changing markets. And to dodgy operators.

Matt and his kids, who love life on the farm.

Matt and his kids, who love life on the farm. Source: NewsComAu