Senate debates

Monday, 24 November 2014


Forno, Mr Wayne

9:59 pm

Photo of Sam DastyariSam Dastyari (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to mark the occasion of the retirement of my good friend, my ally and—dare I say it, Senator Bullock—my comrade, Wayne Forno. Wayne recently announced his retirement as the New South Wales state secretary of the Transport Workers' Union. It is appropriate that I congratulate incoming secretary Michael Aird at this time, and I just want to say well done, Michael. I know you will carry on Wayne's legacy of strong leadership. Yet, in following Wayne Forno as secretary of the union, Michael has big shoes to fill and a grave responsibility in providing strong industrial representation to the men and women who keep New South Wales moving.

While there are a few things I want to say about Wayne tonight, I do want to say that, on a personal level, I will forever be indebted to Wayne. There is no doubt that, in my previous role as a party secretary or the many previous roles before that, I was always able to count on the undying, total, complete support of Wayne in everything that I did, and I will be forever grateful for it.

I will tell you a bit about Wayne and his extraordinary history of service to the labour movement, both at an industrial level and as a respected elected representative and campaign director for the Australian Labor Party in Western Sydney. Wayne grew up in Granville and was influenced in his early activism by local Labor icon Jack Ferguson. Granville was also where he went to school, educated by the Patrician Brothers. His father, Cedric, was a wharfie and another strong influence in Wayne's engagement with the labour movement. He has been married to his lovely wife, Dianne, for 38 years. Together they have two grown-up children, Shane and Kelly, and a 12-year-old dog, Missy. Wayne's overfastidiousness regarding personal hygiene earned him the tongue-in-cheek nickname that he carries to this day: 'Filthy'. He was known for being meticulous about making sure his clothes were clean and tidy at all times. Yet, as an individual, Wayne is best known for his honesty, his integrity and his sheer doggedness.

A lifelong trade unionist, Wayne started work at the age of 15 at Custom Coaches in Villawood and became a member of the Vehicle Builders Union. By the time he was 19, Wayne had developed a strong reputation for advocacy as yard delegate, with more than 100 workmates. His working life has involved hands-on labouring with a range of employers, including at the old abattoir in Homebush. He also worked at Prospect County Council and later on the construction of the Lithgow electricity substation.

Now a long-time Penrith local, Wayne also served his community as the local Deputy Mayor and as a Penrith City councillor from 1987 to 1995. He was universally regarded as a great local representative, particularly for his work in the St Clair area. His engagement in politics has been characterised by strong commitment to the values of local representation and community building. Wayne's contribution as a councillor was recognised in the award of a certificate from the Local Government Association for services to the community and a Commonwealth Centenary Medal for community service and local government. Wayne also served on Prospect County Council.

When the Carr government was elected in 1995, Wayne played a hugely important role as local campaign director in the election of Diane Beamer as the member for Badgerys Creek. The resurgence of the party in Western Sydney, and particularly the campaign that Wayne ran, was fundamental for delivering government to both Bob Carr and his Labor team. In fact, Badgerys Creek, the campaign that Wayne ran, was won by just 107 votes, and the Carr government's parliamentary majority was just one seat after the election. Diane Beamer went on to serve the party with distinction throughout a long parliamentary career, including as a New South Wales government minister.

Wayne became the New South Wales state secretary of the Transport Workers' Union in 2009 when his other friend and colleague, Tony Sheldon, moved to the national office. However, his tenure at the union actually began more than twenty years ago in 1993. After starting out as the union's superannuation officer, Wayne quickly became an official, including working as a senior official for the milk, fuel, waste and bus industries. This involved representing union members in negotiation with companies such as Linfox, Toll and StarTrack. He rose to the office of Sydney sub-branch secretary in 1998 and became assistant secretary in 2002.

Wayne's real-world industry experience fitted him for the high calling of representing workers through the trade union movement. His achievements include fighting for the 15 per cent fair wages campaign for the bus industry, an instrumental role in organising bus drivers during the Sydney Olympics, securing a landmark agreement for StarTrack employees across all New South Wales worksites and standing up for owner-drivers against the Howard government's unjust Workplace Relations Legislation Amendment (Independent Contractors) Act 2006.

Wayne's outstanding leadership on the Safe Rates campaign deserves particular recognition. This significant and ongoing campaign is aimed at improving safety for both truck drivers and the broader community. It looks at the impact of industrial issues on road safety, including top down pressure on drivers to meet impossible deadlines. Safe Rates was recognised in law through the passage of the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2012 in this very place on 16 April 2012. The recognition demonstrates the strength of the Transport Workers' Union's broad-based approach to action on pay and conditions.

It was Wayne's strong record of achievement for workers and commitment to collective action that resulted in his ultimate ascension to the position of New South Wales secretary of the Transport Workers' Union. The union has lost a fine leader who can be proud of a successful career that has benefitted workers across Australia. On a personal level, I want to use this opportunity to say: Wayne, as a friend and as a brother, thank you. Thank you for your support, thank you for your friendship, thank you for your loyalty and thank you for the complete and utter faith you have always shown in me. I wish you and I wish your family the very best in future years.


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