As part of a government that rightly wants public debate to be more respectful, Senator Tony Sheldon seems to have his own agenda.
In the past week, the Senator called Qantas “mongrels” and “big corporate gorillas” who “hoard all the bananas”. We’re also “the sharp part of the knife going through people’s workplace rights” as part of our “war on the middle class”.
This kind of rhetoric seems to borrow heavily from his time as head of the Transport Workers Union, with a lot of his comments similar to what he was saying about Qantas a decade ago. The difference is, he’s now a Senator in the Australian Parliament elected to represent the people of New South Wales and not focus disproportionately on a single company.
So far this year, Senator Sheldon has taken the time to write almost 100 tweets about Qantas. He’s launched numerous attacks in the Senate. He’s called us to testify in front of several parliamentary inquiries he’s chaired. And he’s held press conferences to condemn how a company, which was 11 weeks from going broke during the pandemic and is now back in profit, is being run.
Oddly, he didn’t mention the fact Qantas returned to being Australia’s most reliable airline in October. Or that we have hired and trained thousands of people into well-paid careers over the past six months.
Instead, the Senator has fired off a list of mistruths that’s so long we’ve had to create a dedicated page on our website to correct them.
One claim was that Qantas is cutting people’s pay by up to 40 per cent. That is absurd when we’re offering pay rises of 3 per cent and the opportunity to secure bonuses of up to $11,000 per employee for their part in our recovery.
Another was that we’re not investing in our fleet – despite the fact we have a new aircraft arriving almost every month.
Most concerningly, the Senator claimed Qantas has “compromised safety”. When pressed on such a serious claim by Sky News, he repeated it. That’s frankly irresponsible given the high standards all airlines in Australia operate to. And it’s simply wrong given we’ve published data showing our safety performance was even better in 2022 than pre-COVID.
Playing the safety card against Qantas was another thing the Senator did often when he was head of the TWU, and it’s no truer now than it was then. That’s why we’ll keep correcting the record.