Abbott accuses Labor of ‘xenophobic short-term politics’

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has attacked the Labor party for playing "xenophobic short-term politics" over the free trade agreement with China.

AAP reports that Abbott said in a speech to the Boao Forum for Asia Financial Cooperation Conference in Sydney today that the free trade agreement (FTA) will go down in history as a significant economic decision that will deliver new markets and employment opportunities to Australia.

The Labor Party resolved at its National Conference last weekend that it would attempt to safeguard Australian jobs when the legislation for the FTA came before Parliament later this year.

However Abbott rejected the claim the FTA needs to be amended.

"This is too important to our economy, to our businesses and our children to be sacrificed at the altar of xenophobic short-term politics," he said today.

Referring to the achievements of past Labor Government’s he urged the Opposition not to challenge the FTA.

 “By and large, Australia has had a bipartisan approach to free trade for many years. My hope is that my political opponents will not discard their own history over four decades. It was Gough Whitlam who signed the first trade agreement with China 42 years ago last Friday. It was a ­vision for deep engagement with the region that compelled Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.”

Labor's trade spokeswoman Penny Wong rejected the claim of xenophobic politics and said the Opposition has legitimate concerns about jobs and the inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism.

“Labor won't be lectured on race by a Liberal government that remains committed to protecting the rights of bigots and implementing a discriminatory foreign investment scheme that treats Chinese and American investors differently,” she said in a statement.