Senate Response - Qantas

STATEMENTS Personal Explanations Senator STOKER (Queensland—Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Women and Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations) (19:01): I seek leave, pursuant to standing order 190, to make a brief personal explanation as I claim to have been misrepresented. Leave granted. Senator STOKER: Earlier today Senator Sheldon compared my views on industrial relations to the callous cruelty displayed on the popular Netflix show Squid Game, but in doing so he's misled this chamber, falsely claiming that I had called particular Qantas staff 'inflexible and unreasonable'. Referring to the take note debate in December last year, Senator Sheldon claimed I had accused 2,000 Qantas workers whose jobs had been outsourced of being 'inflexible and unreasonable'. He claimed I supported forcing workers into work arrangements or rates of pay regardless of how unfair they may be with those who resisted to be turfed out onto the street. If it's not obvious from its absurdity, this could not be any further from the truth. My only statement about the Qantas workers who had tragically lost their jobs was to say that it was a disaster. I explained that this was why the Morrison government had put so much effort and so much of the public's resources into trying to keep businesses afloat during COVID so they could keep on their staff. And, far from forcing people into the situations Senator Sheldon described, I was arguing in favour of a healthy and vibrant economy so we have fewer vulnerable people in our society. When I used the terms 'inflexible and unreasonable' to describe something in my take note contribution, it was to describe the approach of Senator Sheldon and his Labor colleagues to industrial relations, not to the 2,000 Qantas workers. I described how rigid and inflexible workplace relations laws risk making it harder for businesses to employ people, depriving them of the dignity of work. No-one wants to see the kind of gore that is shown in Squid Game in the world of real life, but we ought to be able to disagree without running scare campaigns and without comparing each other to fictional psychopaths who prey on the vulnerable for sport.