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Tuesday, 21 June 1994
Page: 1810

(Question No. 1390)

Senator Bell asked the Minister representing the Minister for Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 12 May 1994:

  (1) Is the Minister aware of claims by Mr Neville Irwin, some of which were published in the Courier Mail on 14 February 1994 and in Big Rig of 13 to 26 August 1993, that he was required by two road transport companies, Cenrim Pty Ltd (Frigtrans) and Jaytron Pty Ltd (Stocktrans), to drive inter-state trucks in excess of legal distances and working hours, that these breaches were concealed from authorities by the maintenance of multiple log books, that Mr Irwin took illegal drugs to maintain his driving regime, and that he was underpaid by $20 834 for work performed between 2 August 1990 and 11 December 1991.

  (2) Has any action been taken by the department on Mr Irwin's allegations of over-work and under-payment; if so: (a) what action has been taken; (b) will the Minister take action in view of the seriousness of Mr Irwin's allegations and the failure of previous investigations to resolve them; and (c) if action has been or will be taken, will it be co-ordinated with the Department of Transport to ensure that cross-jurisdictional problems do not impede a proper investigation; if not, why not.

  (3) (a) What jurisdiction does the department have to regulate working conditions in the inter-state road transport industry; and (b) what action has been taken to; (i) establish, and (ii) enforce, safer and fairer working conditions in the inter-state road transport industry.

Senator Robert Ray —The Minister for Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

  (1) Yes, representations by Mr Les Scott, MP, Federal Member for Oxley on behalf of Mr Irwin were made to me on 25 March 1994.

  (2) Yes.

  (a) & (b) I wrote to Mr Scott, who presented Mr Irwin's allegations, outlining that because Mr Irwin was not employed under a federal award, the Commonwealth Department of Industrial Relations does not have the jurisdiction to pursue any payments which may be owed to him by his former employers, Cenrim Pty Ltd and Jaytron Pty Ltd.

  The New South Wales Department for Industrial Relations and Employment, Training and Further Education (DIRETFE) has the jurisdiction to investigate Mr Irwin's complaint. (DIRETFE did not initially investigate the complaint as it was already being investigated by the Transport Workers Union).

  If Mr Irwin fails to get a satisfactory response from the Transport Workers Union, he could again write to the Hon Kerry Chikarovski, New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, seeking a full investigation of his entitlements.

  I understand that Mr Irwin's concerns have also been communicated to Mr Hamill, the Minister for Transport in Queensland.

  (c) Yes.

  (3) (a) The regulation of working conditions such as driving hours and log books is the responsibility of State and Territory jurisdictions.

  A range of other working conditions is expressed in awards and other instruments made by industrial tribunals, federal and State. The parties to these awards, and not the Department of Industrial Relations, can seek to have these awards varied by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.

  Where employees are covered by federal awards, including federal transport industry awards, the Industrial Relations Act 1988 provides authority for unions and the Department of Industrial Relations to enforce compliance with existing federal award conditions. There are regulations under the Act which have been in force since 30 June 1993 requiring employers to keep appropriate time and wages records, and to issue payslips to their employees.

  (3)(b)(i) The Commonwealth is concerned with safety issues and has actively supported the establishment of safer and fairer practices in the road transport industry through the National Road Transport Commission, an autonomous body whose brief is to improve road safety and transport efficiency, through devising uniform national standards, including enforcement standards. The Commonwealth has also contributed to the development of guidelines for self regulation by the Road Transport Forum. These guidelines aim to set standards for health, training, maintenance and management within the industry. In addition, the Commonwealth, through the Federal Office of Road Safety, has made a major contribution towards improving the safety of the road transport industry through a number of safety studies, extensive research into the use of drugs by heavy vehicle drivers and important studies into fatigue .

  (b)(ii) The implementation and enforcement of legislation covering the road transport industry is the domain of State and Territory agencies.