Transport a top priority for freshly elected Gallacher

TWU boss turned federal senator vows to focus on transport industry to prevent fatigue and lift safety standards

By Brad Gardner | August 18, 2011

A union boss turned senator has vowed to champion the cause of the transport industry and says safety is the responsibility of all parties in the supply chain.

In his maiden speech this week to federal Parliament, South Australian Senator Alex Gallacher listed transport as one of three priority interests he will pursue.

The Scottish-born Gallacher, who left his post as the head of the South Australian TWU branch to step into politics, says the industry faces many challenges in the form of attracting new entrants, reducing carbon emissions and meeting the constraints of just-in-time deliveries.

He quoted Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who told the ACTU congress in 2009 she was committed to reforming pay rates, and highlighted the importance of ensuring truck drivers could do their job safely.

"Professional drivers should be able to complete work without excessive fatigue, injury and death as a daily challenge. Clearly, safe systems of work are the responsibility of all participants in the transport chain."

During his speech, Gallacher thanked his family and high-powered union colleagues, Don Farrell, TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon and Peter Malinauskas, who leads the South Australian Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association.

"I promise I will endeavour to uphold their ideals and aspirations for safe, secure and well-paid jobs," he says.

Gallacher also listed road safety and superannuation as the remaining two of this three key priorities and says politicians "are duty bound to advocate for change" to address the high percentage of young drivers involved in road accidents.

He praised proposed superannuation reforms, including the planned introduction of the no-frills My Super scheme and an increase of contributions to 12 percent.

"As a TWU official with a long involvement in the improvements of workers’ rights, I believe government must act in the interest of workers in retirement," Gallacher says.

However, he adds that more education is needed during schooling to educate people on the importance of superannuation.

"Lack of education or even interest at the most important time – that is, when you are young – is commonplace," Gallacher says.

"I believe we should educate and ensure people have the skills and the contributions necessary to fund a good retirement income, whilst ensuring the age pension remains as a vital safety net."

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