Littleproud makes running on state border rules

Testing regimes and Victorian warehousing controls round out week

Littleproud makes running on state border rules
David Littleproud


With fragmented state anti-virus rules sparking warnings including of a possible freight strike, agriculture minister David Littleproud is making the federal case for more effective consultation and cooperation between the states.

Littleproud is urging state premiers to "inject themselves into serious cross border issues that unaddressed could impact the cost of groceries, animal welfare and even critical human health for regional Australians".

His intervention comes as federal transport minister and Nationals leader Michel McCormack and assistant minister Scott Buchholz appear focused publically on largely agriculture issues in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

"The arbitrary closure of state borders have had serious unintended consequences not only on agricultural supply chains but also regional Australians wellbeing," Littleproud says.

"Hard closures are stopping the flow of silage contractors and grain harvesters between Queensland and NSW, Queensland veterinarians and agronomists are also unable to visit clients in Northern NSW, and there are numerous human health impacts impacting on residents who rely on GPs, specialists and allied health care across state borders."

Littleproud gives credence to concerns that health advice is narrowly focused and state leaders have given themselves little flexibility on how such advice is implemented – though he puts the onus on state health experts to broaden their inputs.

"State health officials need to engage specifically with regional communities and industries at the direction of the premiers to identify workable solutions that keep supply chains open while keeping Australians safe rather than arbitrary broad reaching decisions," he says. 

"Where practical the prime minister will seek to raise these issues with premiers.

"Keeping all of our agricultural supply chains secure is absolutely critical to ensuring supermarket prices for fresh products remains affordable for Australians while maintaining some of the best animal welfare standards in the world. 

Littleproud’s call comes as the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) again called on the federal and state and territory governments to standardise cross border requirements to ease the confusion and the additional administrative burden that has been placed on operators in complying with each region’s requirements.  

"In addition, NatRoad is advocating that the cost of testing must not be borne by the industry, especially as increased costs have already been incurred in obtaining and supplying personal protective equipment to drivers," it says.

The association says, following the border turnback of dozens of trucks, the South Australian government has now advised "there was a misinterpretation of the process at the border and the standard protocols have been reapplied".

The SA Department of Transport and Infrastructure also advises: "All commercial transport and freight Essential Travellers who are residents of Victoria must wear a face mask when entering South Australia and self-quarantine in their truck or other private arrangements when not undertaking work-related duties. This is not a requirement for essential freight workers who are not Victorian residents." 

 Read how the VTA raised the border-control stakes, here

On the positive side, NatRoad welcomes the announcement by Transport for NSW that the NSW government is looking to establish "freight-friendly, freight-only Covid-19 testing pop-up locations along key interstate freight routes".

"This announcement comes after calls from NatRoad that current testing facilities were not adequate for truck drivers, causing unnecessary delays and administrative burden to members," the association says.

"To inform the NSW Government as to the best possible locations for the sites, the expected usage of the sites, and get the testing sites up-and-running as soon as possible, members are invited to give feedback via a short questionnaire.

"NatRoad is encouraging members transporting freight into and around NSW to get involved and have their say."

The questionnaire, which closes midnight on Monday, can be found here.

Meanwhile, an effort to gain clarity on how the Victorian government officially defines a ‘warehouse’ is underway, with a view to delineate them from transport and logistics (T&L) facilities.

Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) believes its firms’ facilities can be classified as "short-term storage for ‘in-transit’ goods from import container unpacks, or goods destined for export packing and cartage to the wharf for export".

If confirmed, these firms may avoid the burden being placed on more staff-heavy and vulnerable supermarket and perishable food warehouses and distribution centres in Melbourne, which, along with medical supply, pharmaceutical supply and personal protective equipment supply facilities, for now operate with one-third fewer staff.

Under the most recent changes, Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions No.3 states: "Other warehouses and distribution centres may now operate with 90 percent of their daily total workforce, however, only a maximum of 67 percent of the normal daily peak number of defined workers may be on site at any one time.

"This can be achieved through split shifts, as long as there is no overlap between the shifts and deep cleaning occurs between shifts. This reduction applies to each warehouse or distribution centre."

It also states that" a dedicated Industry Coordination Centre has been set up within the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions to support businesses and consider ‘grey area’ cases to determine if businesses can safely operate under Stage 4 restrictions".

CTAA argues that its firms operate ‘Freight of All Kinds’ (FAK) cargo freight stations under a separate subdivision of the Australian & New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) classification from the one the Victorian government uses.

"It is a strong argument that FAK operations and other "in-transit" container logistics operations (import & export) associated with container logistics transport operators could be described as a ‘container terminal operation’ or a ‘road freight terminal operation’ rather than a warehouse, and thereby classified under the separate sub-division of ‘Other Transport Support Services’, and not ‘Warehousing & Storage Services’," CTAA tells its members while counselling them to take legal advice before acting on it.

CTAA also notes separately that "clarity has been given that the staff number calculations do not include truck and delivery drivers".

Small to medium businesses are directed to a support page here.

Workplace (Additional Industry Obligations) Directions No.3 can be found here.


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