Sterle slams foreign visa 'plague' in road transport

Senator bemoans “mongrels” exploiting system, calls on government action on safety report

Sterle slams foreign visa 'plague' in road transport
Glenn Sterle


Western Australian senator Glenn Sterle has launched a broadside against the alleged exploitation of the visa system in road transport, calling on the government to respond to a road safety report released in 2017 that he chaired.

Sterle says the Aspects of road safety in Australia committee at the time uncovered a culture of abuse within the visa system where international students in Australia on student visas were being employed to drive heavy vehicles without adequate qualifications or accreditation.

The recommendations called on the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to review visa arrangements to address the systematic abuse in the industry, and that all visa holders with heavy vehicle driving licences undergo driver skill tests before having their heavy vehicle driving licences recognised in Australia.

The matter resurfaced again recently in the case of Hari Om Transport, where a 23-year-old driver on a student visa crashed into cars through a McDonald’s restaurant parking lot in Fairy Meadow, near Wollongong.

All the company’s vehicles received serious defect notices, which ranged from defective brakes and bald tyres to seatbelt issues.

Sterle says in the Senate: "It's all very well having a chain of responsibility and all very well having fatigue management, but, if you turn a blind eye as soon as something like this happens - you go and whack over the couple of truck drivers and you still let that rotten system go on - what the hell are we doing in terms of road safety, let alone protecting other road users and protecting a valuable industry that, I can tell you, is really highly disregarded?

"The Government is yet to respond to these reports or any of the recommendations."

Supply chain 'squeeze' 

Sterle takes aim at the parties in the supply chain involved in the Fairy Meadow situation, starting with the Indian-based subcontractors.

"This mob are called Hari Om. Try to Google them and, if you can find out who they are, please help me out. They're a massive company in India and they've got some dealings here.

"Hari Om, whoever the hell they are, nearly went broke a couple of times. There are notices of proposed deregistration from ASIC that I found from 2013 and 2016.

"They have 11 trucks here in New South Wales — one smashed up, of course. RMS grabbed the other 10. Every single one of them was defected.

"Of the 10 vehicles still on the road, six of them have been grounded.

"If a transport company has bald tyres, they’ve got foreign drivers on student visas. Their brakes aren’t working, their seatbelts aren’t working, and yet they’re the fourth link in the supply chain.

"There’s the customer – whoever the customers are. I’d love to know whose freight they’re carting because I’d love to contact the company and say: "Do you know your freight is on these buckets of crap?"

Peter Dutton calls on Hari Om student Visa probe. Read more, here

Sterle then pointsthe finger at larger transport companies who subcontract out to businesses that may not have noted track records, and the lack of action from authorities being taken to prosecute offenders.

"Then you’ve got this other transport company, and I’ve spoken to the manager. This is DSE, who subcontracts the Indian Hari Om.  

"TNT is one of the worst, I’m told, with this Hari Om, and I’m ex-TNT so that wouldn’t surprise me. I became a unionist because of TNT, not because I was born one. They made me one. So I’m not going to let TNT off the hook.

"What the heck are these people being paid?

"Not only are they exploiting the visa system, not only are they putting dangerous vehicles out on the road, they are trying to dodge the TWU.

"The TWU are now doing the investigation, can you believe that? Border Protection is just checking on the Visa and the immigration stuff.

"The TWU is out there wanting time and wages, the safety management plans, the fatigue management plans.

"This is not the work of the TWU; this should be the government.

"You can't wait to put your claws in when taxing those from the transport industry. You steal 40 cents a litre off us in the fuel tax excise; it doesn't go back into the roads."

Sterle also referenced an incident on Sydney’s M5 highway, where a K&S B-double that was overheight and couldn’t get under the airport bridge had to be assisted by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) personnel.  

Two foreign drivers couldn’t reverse the truck, nor could they uncouple it to manoeuvre out, which the RMS had to deal with.

"Fortunately it’s a rare occurrence because our truckies are very well trained and traversed in where they should be and shouldn’t be," Sterle says.

"What was worse, when we spoke to RMS and asked what happened when they put the truck back together, they waved them goodbye and wished that they travelled safely to get to where they’re going.

"For the good folk of RMS and the police, they were only operating under the crappy laws they’ve got in NSW. The minister at the time went missing," he says, referring to Duncan Gay, before implicating successor Melinda Pavey, the "woman who thinks you should put electric shocks through steering wheels so you keep your truck drivers awake".

Sterle reiterates his objection is not towards foreign drivers, but the system letting down the safety of road users by not adequately prosecuting offending parties.

"Before anyone has a crack at me. I’ve made this very clear. This isn’t attacking people from overseas, it is attacking the mongrels who exploit our visa system.

"They get them in here, offer them a house and say: ‘If you open your mouth, you’re out and you’re deported back’.

"The supply chain is being squeezed. We all have children, grandchildren or allies out on the road. We want them to be safe. We have to absolutely work together to put a system in place where you cannot squeeze the supply chain. At the end of the day, the companies have to be responsible."


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