House debates

Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Grievance Debate

Qantas, Kingsford Smith Electorate: Randwick City Football Club

11:04 am

Photo of Matt ThistlethwaiteMatt Thistlethwaite (Kingsford Smith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Financial Services) Share this | | Hansard source

On Monday a bad year got even worse for thousands of employees of Qantas, many of whom live in the community that I represent. 2,000 Qantas workers and their families were given the bad news that they would lose their jobs, but in the ultimate insult, the work that they did would be given to a foreign corporation and their workers would be paid lower wages and conditions to take the jobs of those Australian workers. It comes on the back of only a month ago 6,000 jobs going in what used to be our proud national airline.

One of those employees that lost his job on Monday is a fellow that lives in our community called Darren Lenton. He'd been stood down from his job as a leading hand at Qantas, where he had worked for 24 years—24 years of loyal service to Qantas. Darren has no leave left because he has to care for his ageing father, who has dementia. He's recently had to sell his house because the mortgage holiday the bank had given him had ended. That meant that Darren has had to move in with his mum and dad at La Perouse, along with his children, aged 14 and nine. And now he's been sacked by Qantas.

Just how low can Qantas go? They are sacking front-line workers like Darren and giving up employees that have given so much to keep Qantas flying during these difficult times. Qantas has indicated that it intends to replace those workers with others from a foreign corporation on lower wages and conditions. It's corporate immorality at its worse. All of this is after taking $800 million of taxpayers' funds and using the pandemic as cover for their long-term plan to try and weaken the unions and weaken wages and conditions for workers in their airline.

Qantas was once a national carrier that we could all be proud of. But the current management of Qantas are set on destroying the livelihoods of many of their workers while they continue to take the JobKeeper wage subsidies. It's shameful that it's come to this for Qantas. JobKeeper was put in place as a wage subsidy. It's meant to protect jobs. It's not there for corporations to exploit it for their own means and to bring in their ideal industrial relations system which cuts wages and conditions for workers. Qantas, in selling off Australian workers' jobs, isn't doing the right thing, not only by their workforce, but by the Australian people and the Australian government that put in place the JobKeeper program to protect those Australian workers' jobs.

My old father worked at Qantas for 34 years. It was a good, stable job that provided for our family. He was very proud of the fact that he worked for our national airline. But after Qantas's actions, like many Australians he is no longer proud of what this airline has become.

Last month was the 100th anniversary of Qantas being established, but any sense of celebration has been overshadowed by the harsh reality for some of the current workers that they have been cast aside by the airline. Our aviation workers should be proud of helping Qantas reach its centenary, but many are struggling to survive. I pay tribute to the many members of our community who have worked for Qantas and helped build that airline and the reputation that it has.

It's a once-in-a-century pandemic, yet the Morrison government won't provide support for our aviation workers when they need it the most. The latest cruel act from Qantas is the result of the Morrison government's ongoing failure to plan for Australia's aviation industry. Aviation is an essential industry in Australia, and as we continue to recover from the crisis we rely on aviation workers to get us in the air and to get the economy back off the ground. But instead of developing a plan for aviation, the Morrison government has denied support for airports, denied JobKeeper to dnata workers, allowed Virgin to fall into administration, and now stood by while Qantas sacks thousands of its loyal workers. That's why this month Labor has initiated a Senate inquiry into the impact of the pandemic and its effects on Australian aviation, how the government responded and, importantly, what the industry needs into the future.

So my question to the Prime Minister and the Morrison government is: why aren't you standing up for Qantas workers? Many of them live in your electorate, Prime Minister. Why aren't you meeting with them and standing up for those Qantas workers who have lost their jobs?

Last month, I was delighted to join celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Randwick City Football Club. Randwick City FC was founded in 2010 by a group of like-minded individuals who love football and had the vision to create an inclusive family club. I pay particular tribute to the current president, Richard Baldwin, who's been there for all of the 10 years and was the foundation and who did a lot of work to establish the club. The club is a volunteer-run and not-for-profit club, and it has grown into one of the most vibrant and ambitious soccer clubs in Sydney, catering for multiple teams and abilities. Randwick City FC now has teams playing in the Eastern Suburbs Football Association, including three women's teams and one team in the men's competition at the championship level, along with a Sunday all-age competition and an over 45s league. Randwick City is also home to the mighty Purple Hearts, a team for senior and junior players with disabilities. I'd like to give a shout-out to the Purple Hearts players and their coach, Ben Folino. It was great to catch up with Ben and the team at their 10th anniversary celebrations and one of their recent training sessions in Kensington. I got to see the new players trying out their gear and training equipment purchased with the help of a stronger communities grant from Kingsford Smith. There's a keen sense of anticipation for 2021, when we'll hopefully see more games and more wins for Randwick. Congratulations to all associated with Randwick City FC on your 10th anniversary.

I was also proud to be part of Sydney's first circular economy festival, recently organised by Seaside Scavenge in Little Bay. Using a fun approach, Seaside Scavenge helps to educate communities and businesses about marine debris pollution and textile waste, turning trash into cash. Seaside Scavenge hosts waterway clean-up festivals such as the Looped Festival in Little Bay. The idea is that litter collected from local waterways becomes currency in a pop-up market to purchase preloved clothes and goods that have been donated to our local community. It's really all about cleaning up our oceans and our local environment to help create circular economies of waste. I'm pleased that a Kingsford Smith communities environment grant helped to make the Looped Festival event at Little Bay possible. Seaside Scavenge has a great track record of making real progress in our war against waste. Since 2015, Seaside Scavenge has hosted 53 events that have inspired over 6,000 participants in 37 communities across Australia and the globe to remove 10,850 kilograms of litter and 162,000 cigarette butts, as well as to redistribute about 8,000 kilograms of second-hand clothes. On the day we heard from some of the people who have established local businesses around recycling and repurposing waste materials into new products. One of those was young Harry. Harry and his dad established a company called Good Citizens Eyewear, whereby people can take plastic waste, particularly plastic bottles, and recycle them and turn them into sunglasses. The company is doing so well and Harry is doing so well that he recently addressed the United Nations. That is a great example of the circular economy at work, taking what would otherwise be discarded waste, particularly plastic, and repurposing it, recycling it and turning it into a sellable product.

Seaside Scavenge do a great job to highlight business opportunities such as this, to educate our community about the impacts of food, plastic and textile waste and to provide practical solutions to this big problem. I also commend the focus on supporting our local cafes, restaurants and bars to audit their waste and provide reusable alternatives, BYO container incentives and much more. Well done to the team at Seaside Scavenge and everyone who attended the Looped Festival in Little Bay. I am sure this is going to be an annual event that will grow bigger and bigger and bigger, because there are many in the community that I represent who want to recycle more and who want to know about how they can play their part in creating a cleaner, safer environment for our kids. Well done to Seaside Scavenge.