Senate debates

Friday, 17 November 2023

Statements by Senators

Workplace Relations

1:38 pm

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

For two years, Theo has been fighting Qantas in the District Court. Qantas cabin cleaners were told to clean planes arriving from Wuhan without disinfectant, without PPE and with nothing more than dirty rags and spray bottles of water. When Theo, as an elected safety officer, told his colleagues to stop work because it was unsafe, Qantas stood him down, and he never worked another shift. Yesterday, the District Court ruled that, in doing so, Qantas has yet again criminally broken the law. As Theo said yesterday, Qantas was willing to punish someone rather than actually rectify the issue. If not for Theo's bravery, the lives of his colleagues and the travelling public would have been at greater risk.

This is a landmark decision. It's more evidence of Qantas's criminal and shameful approach to its workforce. Even more important is what the decision says about workplace delegates' rights in this country. The International Labour Organization has recognised that anti-union and antidelegate discrimination is among the most serious violations of freedom of association. We know delegates are often targeted by dodgy employers like Qantas, and they do not have sufficient protections or rights under our laws.

The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 would strengthen protections for delegates like Theo. In the inquiry, we've heard from teachers, nurses, aged-care workers and retail workers about their workers delegates, and it is so important. Delegates are a democratically elected voice in the workplace, but groups like Qantas and the Minerals Council don't want their employees to have a real voice in the workplace. Theo's victory shows just how important it is that we look after delegates. To do that, we need to urgently pass the bill and stop criminal gangs like Qantas. Let's close their loopholes.