Worker who put Shorten on spot suspended
UPDATE: THE worker suspended from Gladstone Ports the day after quizzing Bill Shorten about Labor's tax plan for higher-income earners has spoken, confirming he has not worked at the site since his pass was "cancelled".
And in a swipe at Gladstone Ports Corporation, the electrical engineer said information provided to the media today by the Port was disingenuous.
The Port released a statement today saying, "The port worker, a sub-contractor, is still employed by the contractor and carrying out work for their employer," it said.
"The worker is a sub-contractor, and as such GPC cannot comment on any decisions made by their employers."
However, the man, who wants to remain anonymous so he can continue to find work, today told The Courier-Mail: "I believe that the information provided today by the GPC regarding my employment status is incorrect,'' he said.
"I just want to move on with my life, so I hope this helps to end the debate.
"When my pass was cancelled at the port, and my personal items returned to me last Thursday, I did not believe that I was likely to have my contract renewed at the port.
"I have not performed any work what-so-ever for the port in the last three weeks, and neither have I been asked to perform any work by them.
"I agree that the suspension was lifted late Friday evening, but I suspect that this was only due to pressure from the media.
"With the direct assistance of Welcon Technologies, I have managed to find temporary alternative employment, which commences Tuesday 14th May.
"Welcon Technologies have been extremely helpful and understanding during this time, and hope to continue our 20 year relationship with them into the future. "
Today, Mr Shorten defended the right of the worker to ask questions of politicians.
He told reporters he was not aware of the issue until the story appeared today.
"People are allowed to express their opinions and they should be able to do so without fear or favour, full stop," the former union boss said.
EARLIER: THE Gladstone Ports worker who tripped up Bill Shorten on Labor's tax plan for high-income earners has been suspended and forced to find another job.
The gutted 49-year-old was told he was in breach for speaking to the media when filmed questioning Mr Shorten at the Queensland Government-owned Gladstone Ports Corporation, saying "it would be good to see higher-wage earners given a tax break".
The next day the father-of-three's pass did not work and he was officially told he was suspended. Last week his desk was packed up and delivered to his house.
The experienced electrical engineer has unintentionally become a victim of the cut-and-thrust of a high-stakes election campaign, which will be decided by a handful of marginal seats, including Flynn, which includes Gladstone.
Events unfolded at the port on April 23, when the worker made his off-the-cuff comment to Mr Shorten, who had approached him.
The worker, who had earned about $250,000 last financial year, forgot his lunch that day and got caught up in the media scrum during a free barbecue.
In response, Mr Shorten replied: "We're going to look at that," sparking a political pile-on, with the Coalition accusing the Opposition Leader of deliberately misleading the man, given Labor has a levy on higher-income earners. It become a flashpoint in the campaign.
The Gladstone resident refused to comment over fears about finding full-time work.
It is understood he was shocked when told of his suspension, saying he had not spoken to any media, he had only been filmed asking Mr Shorten a question.
The Courier-Mail began making inquiries about the issue on Friday, and late that afternoon it is understood the man received correspondence from his employer Welcon Technologies, informing him his suspension had been lifted and he could return to work today. However the man had already taken on a short-term job elsewhere. Welcon failed to return calls yesterday.
There's no suggestion Mr Shorten had anything to do with the suspension. His office would not comment yesterday.
In a statement to The Courier-Mail, Gladstone Ports Corporation said the man's employment had not been terminated, however, after repeated requests, it failed to explain why his pass stopped working on April 24 or why his desk was packed up.
"The individual, a subcontractor not a Gladstone Ports Corporation employee, was not in a position to speak with any knowledge or authority on behalf of the organisation," the statement said.
"GPC has a stakeholder and media engagement policy for the appropriate spokesperson for GPC."