TUESDAY, 26 MAY 2020
SUBJECTS: Dnata workers; JobKeeper shortfalls; Regional economic recovery; Belt and Road .
CATHERINE KING, SHADOW MINISTER INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thanks everybody for coming out this morning, and thank you very much to my colleagues, Bill, Rob, Daniel and Maria who are here with us today to again highlight the inequities in the Government’s JobKeeper program. We saw on Friday the enormous bungle the Government has made of the implementation of the JobKeeper program. We’ve seen the Government tell us over and over again that 6 million workers were benefiting from their unprecedented $130 billion JobKeeper program. Well, behind me are some of the workers who are not benefiting from that program, who the Government has deliberately excluded from that program. 5,500 workers from Dnata, which is the company that provides services to our airlines. Services such as food and catering services. Services such as ramping equipment, making sure that the cargo can be loaded and our baggage can be loaded onto an aircraft. Services like customer service when we’re trying to navigate our way through the airport. They’re the services that are provided by the men and women who work at Dnata. Dnata used to be owned by Qantas and through no decision of these workers it’s now owned by a foreign entity. Because of that, the Government has decided that these 5,500 workers, many of who have joined us here today, cannot get JobKeeper, but have to go on unemployment benefits instead. We know that the unemployment queue will be longer because of the decisions this Government has made to deliberately exclude millions of workers from the JobKeeper program. Now, they could fix this tomorrow. They are already 3 million people short of where they said JobKeeper would be. The workers at Dnata deserve the Government to listen to them, to hear their stories and to understand the impact of the decision that they have made. I’m going to ask Bill to say a few words and then we’re going to hear from some of the workers.
BILL SHORTEN, MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG: I am here with other local Members of Parliament supporting Catherine King and saying, 5,500 airline workers who work for Dnata Corporation should be given JobKeeper support. The Morison Government are bunglers on steroids. They had 3 million phantom workers who they said were getting JobKeeper money and support to keep their jobs and they weren’t. But what we now see is that some people are rorting JobKeeper, but there are some people who should be getting JobKeeper. For everyday Australians who say, well, isn’t the pandemic easing and what’s the problem? This is the problem in a nutshell. There’s 5,500 aviation workers, catering workers, workers who make these airplanes fly. Merely because their employer is an overseas company, these Aussies, who pay taxes in Australia, who worked in aviation in Australia, who live in the towns and suburbs of Australia, are missing out because of a Government loophole. The bumbling Morison Government is pushing 5,500 Aussie workers and their families into unemployment queues because they simply won’t support JobKeeper because of a loophole. The Government needs to act.
KING: Thanks, Bill. I’m going to call Michael, Mary, Donna, Raylene and Ollie forward. They’re going to tell what the experiences that they’ve had of being stood down, of being unable to access JobKeeper because of a deliberate decision by the Morison Government, and their experiences during the coronavirus crisis.
MICHAEL, DNATA WORKER: Hi my name is Michael. I’m here on behalf of all my colleagues and friends at Dnata, who have in all seriousness gone through some terrible and unprecedented times. As a delegate of my workplace I have received calls and messages all day and night for the last two months of truly sad and horrific situations that as humans, as Australians, we all should never encounter. My heart breaks to imagine their children seeing their parents in this shattered time with no answers to provide basic essentials like food and warm. Myself and others have given, paying taxes for this JobKeeper, so maybe it’s right to lend us a hand now. Seriously, as a Government, as the big boys of our country, help us to help you when the time comes and the time will come. Lastly, day in and day out, we listen to our Government. We do what they ask. I say to the Government, now is the time to listen to us. Now’s the time to come up with a greater solution. Thank you and I hope the listening makes a difference.
MARY, DNATA WORKER: Hi, my name is Mary. I’m one of Dnata’s leading hands and also union delegate. Over the past few months, it’s been really just shocking and terrible and heartbreaking for me that I’ve actually had to give up my time and my efforts to support someone else in more need because we were forced to take our long service leave and entitlements to get us to this point here. When we all heard about the JobKeeper that was coming people got excited. Then it just went worse because then we were thrown into JobSeeker. I’ve had people literally ringing me up and crying. I’ve had to give up my money, my JobKeeper, which we never had. Scott Morrison you quoted that you would look after us Australian workers, you clearly haven’t. You also said to us that you would keep the relationship between the employee and the employer, but clearly that can’t happen on JobSeeker, because you are forcing us apart from our employer, which we don’t want to do. Not to mention the money. It impacts us because people don’t have enough money to put food on the table. And it heartbreaks me. So I’m the one getting these phone calls, sorry, and I literally can’t help them, so Scott Morrison we are pleading for you to help these people. I can’t keep taking phone calls from my colleagues that don’t know if they could supply food and put food on the table or pay their rent or pay their bills, it is shocking. Please, we need your help and we need it today.
DONNA, DNATA WORKER: I’m Donna and for 20 years I’ve worked in the airline industry. I started with Q Catering and just over a year and a half ago the Government allowed our business to be sold to Dnata, which we now know is owned by another Government. We’re into 8 weeks of stand down, caused by planes being grounded by this Government. I too get the same calls that Mary and Michael get. We get depressed ourselves because we’re hearing all this stress of other staff, yet we’ve got our own issues to deal with. We have no or very limited shifts available and half of us are unable to get JobSeeker, and the bills are now starting to mount up 8 weeks in. I’m terrified for myself when my loan gets taken off hold and I have to start paying in full again. We have a very designated skillset in the airline industry. We are caterers. We are cleaners. We are customer service. We are engineers. We are truck drivers. We are ground crew and we are security. We are a community here and half of us can get JobKeeper and half of us can’t. JobKeeper is designed to keep this skillset with our business but our business isn’t keeping that because now we have to go find jobs elsewhere. So when we return, we won’t be here and the skillset will be lost in this country that’s going to need it when we start flying again. What I want to know, Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg, is what do you hope to achieve by not giving JobKeeper to us? Are you trying to punish the government that you allowed to buy into our country? Or are you trying to punish the company that is owned by that Government? At the end of the day they will survive, but we’re not going to survive and we need the help now. What does matter is that you’re hurting us, the Australian tax paying employees who stand to lose the very things that we worked so hard for, that great Aussie dream.
RAYLENE, DNATA WORKER: Hi my name is Ray. I work for Dnata, I’ve been here for almost eight years now. I love my job, I work just over there usually, I haven’t been here since the end of March. I’ve found a bit of work so I’m doing ok at the moment, but at the end of September my home loan is going to be taken off hold and my partner also works here as well and we are both going to have no income and just JobSeeker. That’s not going to cover our mortgage. So my fear is that in September I don’t know what’s going to happen. So please, Mr Morrison and Mr Frydenberg, please don’t let us Australian taxpayers lose our houses and our livelihood, please help us.
OLLIE, DNATA WORKER: Hi my name is Ollie and I am a ramp agent with Dnata. I’m going to try and speak on behalf of a lot of the ramp team here at Dnata. I have been one of the lucky ones here during this whole mess. Because of the low annual leave hours I had, I have managed to keep working through it but that is not a reality for a lot of people here. Without the JobKeeper a lot of these people have been forced to be stood down. A lot of these people have families, mortgages they’ve got to pay, and it’s just too hard to live without support like that. It’s been pretty heartbreaking talking to a lot of people who are trying to get through a stage like this, especially when it’s 5,500 people who have paid taxes in Australia, contributed to the economy. It’s hurting a lot of people.
KING: As you can see the decisions that Governments make have real life consequences. The decision the Morrison Government has made to deliberately exclude 5,500 aviation workers has real life consequences, and you’ve just heard some of that today. Heartbreaking stories about people who are concerned about their colleagues, who are concerned about their capacity to pay their bills, their mortgages, and to be able to support their children and their families. The Morrison Government couldn’t manage its way out of a wet paper bag when it comes to the economy, and that’s what we’ve seen with this absolute bungle with JobKeeper. We’re calling on the Government to fix this, to fix this for the 5,500 Dnata workers and the thousands of community members, casuals, arts and entertainment sector workers, local council workers across the country. All of these people will end up on unemployment benefits, if they’re eligible. Our unemployment queues will be longer, and are going to be longer, because of the decisions the Government has made. I’m happy to take questions.
KING: We know that in regional Australia, that often we are hit first when the economy experiences a downturn, and we take longer to get out of it. That’s whether it’s in agriculture or in some manufacturing areas as well, but of course, we also know from this crisis that it’s affected different regions differently. Regions highly dependent on tourism have obviously been hit the hardest and hit first, and that, of course has also spun on to aviation. We are concerned that our trade relationships need to be supportive of our regional economies, supportive of tourism, and supportive of agriculture and it’s important for the government to make sure that it’s getting those relationships right
SHORTEN: Anthony Albanese dealt with this matter very clearly and federal Labor’s view about the Belt and Road Initiative, he’s made clear federal Labor’s position. But I’ve got to say, I did some homework on this issue, and I found out that Malcolm Turnbull, while Mr Morrison was Treasurer, signed a Belt and Road initiative in 2017. Steve Ciobo was the Minister. They haven’t revealed what is in that document. So here’s Mr Morrison, throwing bricks at Mr Andrews, but he should straighten up his own house first. I mean, the Liberal Party kept taking Chinese donations for two years after Labor stopped. They had to be dragged kicking and screaming not to sign an extradition treaty with China. It was the federal Liberals who gave a cheap deal on the Darwin Port and did nothing to stop it. And now what they’re doing is they’ve got their own secret arrangements which they’ve never revealed from Mr Turnbull’s time when he was Prime Minister.
KING: It’s really hard to have confidence in a Government that has an infrastructure program including things like the Urban Congestion Fund, yet it has only managed to start in the two years since they announced the program, they’ve managed to start a couple of road projects out of it. It is very hard to have confidence in a Government that has so categorically failed to actually progress some of these projects. I think it is important that the Government tells us what its infrastructure plan is going forward. Of course we do need those large scale iconic projects, as Anthony has highlighted, in things like High Speed Rail, but what we need now is a massive program on road safety and road maintenance, making sure that money is flowing into economies right across the country, and that those projects are flowing now. In Eden-Monaro we need the money for the Barton Highway to be bought forward and to be increased to ensure that people in Eden-Monaro have a decent road through to Yass. We also need to make sure that those smaller local council infrastructure projects not only get funded, but they’re actually started now. So far, what we’ve seen from the Government is a lot of spin and a lot of rhetoric when it comes to infrastructure, but very little delivery. When it even comes to things like their car parks at railway stations, we’ve seen very, very few of those actually started. They’ve been in Government for a long time now, it’s a year since the Federal Election, they really need to get on with the job.
SHORTEN I think Anthony did deal with this very clearly and I am supporting his position. In terms of Victorian agreement, it’s a memorandum of understanding, it’s not legally binding, I’m not sure any projects have started, but I’m just a trifle wary of the Morison Government and the politics of distraction. Today we are saying that we’ve got thousands of Aussie workers, fair dinkum Aussie workers being thrown on the unemployment scrap heap whilst other people are rorting the JobKeeper program. Why does Mr Morrison treat Australian workers who are employed in Australia, for Australian work, working for a foreign company as second class Australians? Yet we all know that there’s other examples anecdotally of people ripping off the JobKeeper scheme. Mr Morrison’s priorities are wrong. As for a Belt and Road initiative, Mr Morrison should come clean and provide the agreement that Steve Ciobo, his minister signed in the last term. They should explain why they were so keen to support an extradition treaty with China. They should explain why they didn’t stop the Darwin Port being given away for song on a 99 year lease.
KING I’m just adding to Bill’s comments as well. If the Morrison Government has a problem with Victoria it should stop playing that problem out through the media, it should pick up the phone and talk to Daniel Andrews. The Morrison Government is trying to pride itself by standing lockstep with the states and territories on this Coronavirus crisis. If it’s got a problem with the Victorian Government it’s actually got to talk to them rather than playing this issue out through the front pages of the media