Penny Wong, Trade Spokeswoman for Labor, has reacted angrily to what she describes as the Prime Minister playing the race card.

On Thursday Tony Abbott attacked labor for its opposition to the FTA. His use of the words ‘xenophobic short-term politics’ drew ire from Ms Wong and others.

Mr Abbot is resolute on the FTA being vital to Australia’s prosperity.

Speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia Financial Co-operation Conference in Sydney on Thursday, the Prime Minister said an FTA would open markets for entrepreneurs, provide investment opportunities, and guarantee employment for generations. “This is too important to our economy,” he told the assembled financial experts, “to our businesses, and our children to be sacrificed at the altar of xenophobic short-term politics.

“The coalition won’t be part of that and I hope our opponents will end their flirtation with the ideas and fears of the past.”

Senator Wong responded by saying the coalition are simply concerned about jobs and investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms.

“Labor won’t be lectured on race by a l:iberal government that remains committed to protecting the rights of bigots and implementing a discriminatory foreign investment scheme that threats Chinese and American investors differently,” said Ms Wong in  a statement.

Mr Abbott countered by sayng Australia has secured investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms in at least 21 agreements. He went on to say Australia has had such a mechanism in place with China since the Hawke government’s bilateral agreement with China back in 1988.

Former Labor foreign minister, Bob Carr, waded into the battle saying there are adequate safeguards built into the FTA provisions.

“The capacity to bring in foreign labour would not apply to normal projects – they’ve got to test local markets first to see whether they can find Australian workers and Australian conditions apply,” said Mr Carr to AAP.

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