Cap­i­tal of­fence

A Se­nate com­mit­tee look­ing into truck driver li­cens­ing and im­mi­gra­tion con­trols is nd­ing signicant weak­nesses

Australian Transport News - - Contents - WORDS R OB M cKAY

A us­tralian au­thor­i­ties’ lack of co­or­di­na­tion and li­ai­son has again been laid bare again in the Se­nate and the truck­ing in­dus­try con­tin­ues to be worse for it.

So be­lieves Sen­a­tor Glenn Sterle, who re­mains in a con­stant state of in­cred­u­lous­ness as how large the holes are in en­force­ment of rules and reg­u­la­tion – some due to lack of imag­i­na­tion and some to rigidi­ties within the Aus­tralian le­gal and ad­min­is­tra­tive struc­ture.

In­deed, while not blam­ing front­line en­force­ment staff in any way, Sterle, a for­mer truck driver, con­tin­ues to give the im­pres­sion that he finds the sit­u­a­tion per­son­ally of­fen­sive.

Ear­lier this year, his Ru­ral and Re­gional Af­fairs and Trans­port Ref­er­ences Com­mit­tee’s ‘As­pects of Road Safety in Aus­tralia’ in­quiry gave him the op­por­tu­nity to vent his frus­tra­tion.

It had laid bare an in­abil­ity of the New South Wales Roads and Mar­itime Ser­vices (RMS) and Aus­tralian Skills Qual­ity Au­thor­ity (ASQA) to join dots or team up to tackle cor­rup­tion and bad prac­tices amongst reg­is­tered train­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions (RTOs) that li­cense truck driv­ers.

More re­cently, the in­quiry has heard that the abil­ity of im­mi­gra­tion and bor­der pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers to act against em­ploy­ment ex­ploita­tion of visa car­ri­ers, in­clud­ing in freight trans­port, is ham­pered by the laws gov­ern­ing them.

Nei­ther episode will re­as­sure trans­port op­er­a­tors that, if they need a driver at short no­tice, say from a labour hire

com­pany, the one they get will be prop­erly trained and com­pe­tent.


The com­mit­tee has been told the im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cers’ fo­cus is solely on con­tra­ven­tion of the Mi­gra­tionAct and they must in­volve other gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties, in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice (AFP), to have any sort of broader im­pact.

“Un­der the main type of Mi­gra­tionAct war­rant that we have, we have the power to look for doc­u­ments that re­late to prov­ing the in­di­vid­ual’s iden­tity and, in a broad sense, what their back­ground is,” Com­man­der Robyn Miller, of the Field and Re­movals Op­er­a­tions arm of En­force­ment Com­mand at the Depart­ment of Im­mi­gra­tion and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion says.

“That’s about demon­strat­ing whether they are or are not a nonci­t­i­zen. It doesn’t go to the con­di­tions un­der which they’re em­ployed and sub­se­quent in­for­ma­tion about things like how they’re be­ing paid.

“The way we’re working around this, which we can con­tinue to do, is to work very closely with other agen­cies that have com­ple­men­tary pow­ers to what we do. In these se­ri­ous ex­ploita­tion cases, we are working in col­lab­o­ra­tion with AFP and Fair Work Om­buds­man in par­tic­u­lar be­cause they have pow­ers to ob­tain the type of ev­i­dence that we’re look­ing for here.”

Miller adds: “Our Mi­gra­tionAct pow­ers are quite nar­row in our abil­ity to gather ev­i­dence.”

The in­quiry, in which sen­a­tor Barry O’Sul­li­van is an ac­tive mem­ber, is look­ing into truck-driver train­ing and li­cens­ing and the use of visa-hold­ing truck driv­ers.

It was sparked by a scan­dal in­volv­ing two stu­dent-visa hold­ing In­dian males found to have been cor­ruptly given li­cences and had been in­com­pe­tently in charge of a B-dou­ble prime mover con­trolled by SPS Dhali­wal and sub­con­tracted to Scott’s Trans­port.

Miller says her sec­tion had in­ves­ti­gated Scott’s about the sub­con­trac­tor ar­range­ment it had with the sub­con­trac­tor but had not looked deeper into the com­pany, hav­ing fo­cused only on the in­ci­dent at hand.

Nor, with 443,798 stu­dent visa-hold­ers to keep tabs on, could much be done on those in­volved in truck­ing in­ci­dents.

On the ex­ploita­tion is­sue, her sec­tion was in­volved with other en­force­ment au­thor­i­ties in Task­force Cadena, which has seen ac­tion in the agri­cul­ture sec­tor.

“Our Mi­gra­tion Act pow­ers are quite nar­row in our abil­ity to gather ev­i­dence”

Above L to R: Sen­a­tors Barry O’Sul­li­van and Glenn Sterle

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