TWO thousand Gladstone workers vented their anger yesterday afternoon in a loud political rally against the Australia-China free trade agreement.

Protesters took over the CBD as they walked along Yarroon and Goondoon Sts, calling for Aussie jobs to be protected.

The rally was one of many being held around the nation.


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MP Ken O'Dowd's office went into lockdown as it came under siege by ETU, CFMEU and other union members who chanted slogans and yelled protests objecting to the MP's support for the agreement.

Mr O'Dowd was in Federal Parliament and did not hear their calls but his staff, who locked the office's front doors, said the mob of noisy protesters was "a little unnerving".

CFMEU and Electrical Trades Union leaders told the rally that changes must be made to ensure the agreement did not risk Australian jobs by leaving the door open for large multi-national companies to import workers in large numbers.

Leaders welcomed a large turnout of Bechtel Gladstone LNG workers, who were in danger of having their days off not approved until the ETU took the issue to a federal court last week.

Union members march in Gladstone over the China Australia free trade deal.
Union members march in Gladstone over the China Australia free trade deal.

Union reps warned Bechtel staff that their photographs were likely to be taken at the rally by Bechtel management.

CFMEU national vice-president Michael Ravbar said while the agreement still had a long way to go through both houses of parliament and the senate, there was a lot the community and workers could do to ensure Aussie jobs didn't disappear.

"The devil is in the detail. (Prime Minister) Abbott is not a very bright person and what he is doing is criminal for Australians," Mr Ravbar said.

"In Sydney already Chinese carpenters and gyprockers are getting $4 an hour."

Mr Ravbar said while "the big-end-of-town, the big resource companies wants it" opposition to the trade agreement was strong among workers.

But he said Chinese workers coming to Australia should not be blamed because they were looking for a better life for their families and risked exploitation.

"The China free trade agreement is a job killer. Let's get rid of it and we need to get that groundswell of people to know how bad it is," Mr Ravbar said.

Mr Ravbar said Mr O'Dowd was one of the first politicians to say the Australia-China free trade agreement was good for Gladstone and good for Queensland.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks flew in for the rally. He said the agreement would weaken workplace safety, weaken conditions, and that major companies would be able to exploit imported workers.

Outside the MP's office he was blunter calling the agreement "a s**t deal" in which the Federal Government wanted to open the floodgates to overseas workers. Gladstone ETU organiser Craig Giddins also put it plainly and said the agreement was "a horrible thing for Australian workers".

AMWU central Queensland organiser Phil Golby said "we want fair trade not free trade" and that industry should hire local workers.

Queensland Council of Unions general secretary Roslyn McLennan said the agreement was a "lemon" that condemned young people to a life of unemployment.

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