Senate debates

Wednesday, 11 August 2021


Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Scalas, Ms Fortunata

7:20 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to make a contribution on two very important matters. The first I'd like to address is the great work of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and their campaign, Keep Freight on Aussie Trains. That campaign has highlighted the growing pressure on Australia's interstate rail freight industry, chiefly due to the deregulation of the coastal shipping sector. The deregulation jammed through by Tony Abbott allows foreign vessels to carry domestic freight through the exploitation of workers who are paid a mere $3 an hour. Federal Labor will address this growing problem, and we have committed to a comprehensive review of the rail freight sector to ensure rail continues to play an important role in the movement of freight across Australia in order to strengthen the industry and ensure that it continues to deliver goods efficiency, safely and productively. I also acknowledge the work of Senator Hanson in this space for drawing attention to this issue. But of course, as a Labor senator for the great state of New South Wales, I am very proud to stand with the RTBU members of that state and indeed the national body of RTBU members, who have a right and a responsibility, and take it very seriously, to advance the interests of Australians. They demand that the government back the domestic rail freight industry and commit to Australian jobs for Australian workers. The deregulation agenda that we see from this government hurts us. It hurts us in so many ways. It cuts jobs, it erodes conditions, it impacts on other people we share the planet with, even if they're not Australian citizens, and it certainly hurts our sovereign capability. This should not be happening. We are in the moment, with this COVID reality wrapped around us, of a complete review of the way we live our lives. We want to go back to normal, we yearn for a return to normal, but I fear that, as time passes, there will be no return. We're going into a vastly different Australia—an Australia where we understand we're part of the global world, but we really need to protect our national sovereignty and capacity. That is why I acknowledge and applaud the great work of the Rail, Train and Bus Union and their political activism in the interests of the people of Australia.

Finally, Acting Deputy President Chandler, as a member of a political party, you would understand how important civic participation is and how wonderful it is to have members of our parties who live and breathe a passion for our great democracy. I rise today to speak on the passing of one such amazing Australian citizen, my comrade and dear friend of Copacabana fame, none other than Fortunata Scalas. Indeed, she was a very longstanding member and treasurer of the Kincumber Branch of the ALP, a stalwart of the ALP on the Central Coast. Nata was a constant and eager campaigner, a tireless booth worker, a community activist and a dedicated branch member. She took democracy very seriously, and I'm very pleased that she landed on the Labor side of the ledger. She counselled members of parliament and had a bubbling passion for life and politics that invigorated all who came into her orbit. She was a great Labor woman. Nata saw the world through those insightful, loving and generous eyes of hers, and she advocated at every opportunity for fairness and decency for all. She was also an avid gardener and prolific cook, and she adored her family. In turn, they adored her, as did her friends and members of the local community. Nata was a devoted wife, mother and grandmother, as well as a solid community activist in the interests of all. My thoughts and prayers are with her and her beautiful family. I'm sure her memory and the great times that she had with them will be a blessing for them for many years to come. I acknowledge the passing of the wonderful Fortunata Scalas.


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