Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 14 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 November 2005) . . Page.. 4457 ..
terminated due to a workplace injury. Tonight I am pleased to inform the Assembly that Qantas has been shown the error of its ways and has decided to maintain Mr Hocking’s employment.
I remind the Assembly of the particulars of Mr Hocking’s case. After 14 years of work as a baggage handler at Canberra international airport, Ross sustained his fifth injury. Two weeks after the injury, Qantas made a decision to terminate his employment. I stated at the time that the injury received by Mr Hocking could have and should have been avoided. Qantas was aware of employees working 200 hours in a two-week period and it was aware of the physical demands placed on baggage handlers at Canberra airport.
All of this knowledge did not result in changes to operations at Canberra airport and Mr Hocking’s injury should not have happened; neither should he have had to fight to retain his position. But fight he did, with the assistance of my office and his union, the Transport Workers Union. At his request, I spoke with representatives of Qantas about Mr Hocking’s injuries and his subsequent termination. I would like to think that my involvement had little to do with the outcome. Whilst I believe it right for me to represent the interests of constituents, I also firmly believe in the right of union representation.
I am grateful that I was able to assist Mr Hocking, the TWU and Qantas in resolving this dispute. However, I am concerned that the changes to federal industrial relations legislation will mean that the involvement of parties outside the normal scope will no longer be the exception. What is of greater concern to me is the right of workers like Ross to dispute their unfair dismissals. When he had his employment terminated, Mr Hocking was legally entitled to challenge this determination with the support of his union and without fear of the financial burden of a civil case.
As we in the Assembly are well aware, the right to dispute an unfair dismissal will be lost to employees with fewer than 99 colleagues under the federal government’s proposed changes to industrial relations. Qantas quite clearly has more than 100 employees. Should it choose to do the right thing by its thousands of employees across the country, it will continue to maintain existing contracts. But Qantas also has the option to employ the strategy of Patrick Corporation, that great friend of the Howard government, and divide its work force into myriad subsidiaries so as to make it in just under that magic number of 100.
Like the maritime dispute in 1998, public opinion surrounding WorkChoices is coming as a shock to the federal government. Why? It is because people believe in a fair go. Ross Hocking believed in a fair go. He had the courage to take on the Australian icon and he won. His courage has meant that he no longer has to worry about meeting his mortgage repayments, about finding the $750,000 in wages and entitlements in potential earnings he would have otherwise lost. I congratulate Mr Hocking, the Transport Workers Union and Qantas for reaching an outcome that is fair and just.
Mrs Dunne—quotation from document
MR PRATT (Brindabella) (6.15): Mr Speaker, I have a couple of issues to raise. Firstly, I say “Hear, hear!” to Mr Mulcahy’s comments earlier about the Chief Minister’s