Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Statements by Senators

Workplace Relations: Qantas

1:57 pm

Photo of Tony SheldonTony Sheldon (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

On Wednesday morning, the High Court will hand down its decision on the case of 1,700 Qantas ground staff who were sacked in the middle of the pandemic. Despite the Federal Court twice finding the sackings to be illegal, Qantas have dragged the case to the High Court. What we're seeing from Qantas is a systematic effort to destroy the lives and livelihoods of 1,700 families. Dragging these workers through years of litigation has continued the trauma of Qantas's unethical decision to sack them. Damien, a Qantas employee for 12 years who was sacked along with his colleagues, said the sacking 'broke a lot of hearts' and that Qantas used the pandemic as 'a window of opportunity to get rid of a unionised workforce'.

We need to understand that the High Court decision on Wednesday will have implications for thousands of workers far beyond Qantas itself. What we'll see is big companies spending millions on top-floor lawyers, who will go over the court's decision with a fine-tooth comb. Make no mistake: employers will use this decision as a roadmap to exploit loopholes and outsource their workforce, which, no doubt, those opposite will back. The use of cheaper, less secure, outsourced labour to undercut decent wages and secure jobs is a form of exploitation and avoidance that will only continue to rise without addressing the 'Joyce loopholes'. That is why, now more than ever, we need our government's closing loopholes legislation to pass through parliament. This bill is about protecting the Australian workforce and their right to decent conditions and fair pay and about ensuring that the experience of these 1,700 Qantas workers doesn't happen anywhere else in the future.


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