A Senate committee looking into truck driver licensing and immigration controls is nding signicant weaknesses
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.
IMMIGRATION AND BORDER PROTECTION
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