Sheldon vows wages and conditions fight in Senate

Former national secretary hails union and industry in maiden speech

Sheldon vows wages and conditions fight in Senate
Tony Sheldon


Tony Sheldon was in the front line of industrial action as a trade unionist and will draw on that experience to campaign for better wages and conditions as a senator, he says in his maiden speech to the Senate.

The former Transport Workers Union (TWU) national secretary stood down in 2018 after 30 years of service to run for the Senate, and was elected in 2019 representing the Labor party.

His transport and union roots will influence his current role, where he will campaign for long-term employment prospects for workers – including safe rates in the transport industry, he says.

Read how Sheldon flew the union coop to enter politics, here

"I'm in this place to speak up for dignity, good work and rewarding jobs, for decent wages and safe conditions, for long-term employment that allows you to get a mortgage and provide for your family with certainty—the pathway to economic freedom.

"I've taken calls from truck drivers who were being force-supplied by their employers with drugs to keep them awake in an effort to meet the cost demands of clients – drivers who were told that if they contacted the police or didn't take the drugs they would lose their jobs and worse.

"I've been to the funerals of those who have paid the ultimate price, comforting loved ones in the depths of unimaginable grief.

"That is why I vow that I will not rest until this parliament restores safe rates into this country."

He says he will also tackle government's role in designing and regulating markets in an age of the gig economy and global tech giants– "unaccountable titans who seek to have the market operate in their self-interest", which need to beheld  "economically accountable so they can contribute their fair share of tax".

"We must reject aggressive, value-neutral supply chains monopolising and using technology as a barbed wire chain around the throats of business and workers down the line," he says.


Sheldon paid homage to the TWU – including successor Michael Kaine – for supporting him throughout his career as he stepped aside to pursue his political ambitions.

"I have entered parliament with 42 years in the workforce. Every battle scar and every victory are lessons I carry with me to this very moment.

"I speak of the national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, the mighty Michael Kaine. Michael's a formidable leader and the best friend and best lieutenant a person could have.

 "I want to thank all of the members of the Transport Workers' Union and every working person who has supported me for so many years.

"I say to every transport worker in Australia: because you are the men and women who carry Australia, you deserve the respect of all Australians.

"I want to say to these great men and women: it has been my honour to serve you.

"I'm here because of you, and, now more than ever, in this place I am your servant.

"To those families who have lost loved ones on the altar of profit, driven by greed or misused technology, or allowed by failed regulation: I remember every single one of you."

Sheldon also lauded the non-union figures in transport who he regarded as playing a positive role for industry and workers.

"I acknowledge some splendid friends from the other side of politics: Duncan Gay, the former roads minister in New South Wales, and Mike Gallacher, the former minister for police in New South Wales.

"They are decent people who made negotiations and discussions robust but always rewarding.

"I also recognise Lindsay Fox. Lindsay has always been direct, honest, frank and true to his word. With Lindsay it's always been an interest based negotiation to get a fair outcome for all parties.

"The sort of negotiations I have also enjoyed with the likes of the unique Michael Byrne from Toll – an old friend – Paul Ryan, Peter Anderson, Peter Fox and Hugh McMaster, Laurie D’Apice, Maurice Baroni and John Borghetti, and Terry and Arthur Tzaneros, two wonderful people, employers who also understand that honest and genuine disagreement can yield good results.

"These are the captains of industry who distinguish themselves from a small minority of others."


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