Senate debates

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

JobKeeper Payment, Pensions and Benefits

3:42 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Road Safety) Share this | Hansard source

As I was saying, Senator Canavan should stick around and listen, quite clearly, because I'm going to talk about a group of workers, 5,500 in this nation, who have been treated absolutely appallingly by the government. They're not blue-collar, steelcap-booted big union men with loud voices; the majority of them are women and they're the dnata workers. For those senators sitting opposite—I know you don't have your say; you're not in the cabinet and I understand that—these are the people who clean the aircraft that you and I fly on every week. These are the same people. We see them when we're getting off the plane, whether it's midnight, whether it is five o'clock in the morning. We see them when we are getting on, the ones with the buckets, the ones with the gloves, the ones with the plastic bins, all waiting to come onto the aircraft to clean the aircraft that we have been sitting on and have had a comfortable flight on.

These are the same workers who put together the food, the nibbles and the drinks that are served on our planes throughout Australia every flight. They're the same ones who make sure that the trays have water in them and they're the same ones who are there to make sure there are colouring-in pencils and books for the poor kids down the back who are screaming and not enjoying the flight. These are 5½ thousand Australian workers who work in the catering kitchens, formerly Qantas flight catering. These are the same people who prepare the food. There are the chefs, the cooks, the pot washers, the cutlery bench, every single bit going day in, day out, making sure that Australia's aviation industry is not only effective but it's also viable, comfortable and enjoyable. They're the same ones who do it on all international flights. It's not a different bunch of workers; it's the same workers. These are the same workers, predominantly women, who all, at one stage, worked for Qantas or for Alpha catering. And that proud Australian airline, Qantas, couldn't wait to sell it off to dnata.

I appeal to my colleagues across the bench: these are not foreign workers; they are Australians. Most of them were born here or have made their home here. They go to the same shopping centres as we go to. Their kids go to the same schools. They pay their taxes here in Australia. It's just because the government actually allowed Qantas's request to have their employer go from the proud Australian—who had many times tried to water down the 51 per cent Australian ownership to suit their very highly paid officials at the top of the tree. These are Australians. They're not being told that they can't have JobKeeper—nor can they get jobseeker—because they are in an industry that is not worthy; they are being told by the government that they can't have it because the employer is a foreign entity.

How do you think they feel? You've seen the protest. You've seen their submissions. You've seen their approaches. I attended two rallies in Perth for the dnata workers. One of the rallies was at the Attorney-General's office. All they wanted to do was present a letter to the Attorney General to say: 'Dear Attorney-General, when you're next in cabinet could you please consider us Aussies who aren't getting this money. We're not foreigners, it's just that our company was sold to a foreign entity.' The sad part is that Minister Porter wasn't there. They knocked on the door, they walked into the office and they presented the letter saying, 'Please can we put our case to you?'—and I'm told the lady in Minister Porter's office was very well mannered and accommodating—and they walked out. Ten minutes later, I was sitting there and I said to the secretary of the Transport Workers Union: 'Mate, you might want to go out there and say hello. I've just seen two police cars turn up with four policemen, two of them Australian Federal Police. I know the two detectives sitting there, because I've seen them before. I've called the coppers and said, "There's a violent demonstration."' Most of the people there, the dnata workers, were women who stood about five foot two inches high. I couldn't believe it. I asked Timmy Dawson the other day whether he had had a response. To this day, he has still not even had the decency of a response from Christian Porter. (Time expired)


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