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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9883


Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (15:20): I rise to take note of the answers to questions that I put to Minister Cash today. I cannot believe what I heard today. What a disgraceful episode that was. I asked the minister and the government when they became aware of some shocking employment conditions at Tip Top, where one driver died in the car park from a heart attack. His family were interviewed last night on 7.30 and they said that they believed their husband and father had been driven to an early grave. He had worked six months without a day off—working seven days a week and sometimes 17 hours a day. The lack of empathy I got from the minister could not have been more embarrassing or less caring. All she wanted to waffle on about was some funding for some roads—and, if someone has a problem with a truck, get on the internet or something.

Tip Top is a name that has been around forever, but I for one will never purchase another Tip Top product—and I reckon Australia should get in behind me. Tip Top are a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, which just weeks ago reported a profit of over A$27 billion. These so-and-sos at Tip Top are squeezing the supply chain down to the point where people are dying. One poor man who had lung cancer was so ill that he couldn't go to work. When he rang up, do you know what the response was from Tip Top—that brand on the shelves at Woolworths, Coles, Aldi and the like? Their answer was: 'We don't care how crook you are. You have a contract; get in here.' He couldn't afford to put a driver on. That is the way that he was treated by this multibillion-dollar raider from Britain. What a disgraceful company!

The minister, in her response to my question, accused me—it's on the record—of trying to spin a political point when I spoke about the 301 deaths on our roads involving articulated vehicles. I get really, really wild about this as an ex-long distance truck driver. I carved my living on the roads, the highways and byways from Perth to Darwin, starting off as a 15-year-old in the removal industry and then running my own trains up there on a fortnightly basis. I know the pain that truckies go through. I know the lack of quality lifestyle that they have. I worked for a company which wasn't all that fantastic in paying, sometimes—but, fortunately, we were a collective. When we weren't paid right, we had the ability—in those good old days—to withdraw our labour. We could park our $200,000 rigs out the front of the yard and say, 'We're not moving, because we aren't being paid a rate that can pay off our fuel bills, fix our trucks, pay off our trucks, feed our families and pay off our house payments.' These poor devils working for Tip Top have had rate reductions.

I want to mention the two drivers from Tip Top who came here from Sydney, because they are brave men. Mark Goldfinch and Paul Clapson came here yesterday to tell their story to Australian legislators. Not one coalition government member—Liberal, National, LNP—would meet with them. Why not? Then the minister gets up in question time—like some complete; I won't say that word because I will have to withdraw it, and I can't put my tongue around a nice enough word—and tries to push away these deaths that have been experienced at one bread company, because the poor devils have had $1,000 a week taken off their remuneration, and treats my question and my concern about deaths on our roads as a political stunt. I am absolutely concerned about the deaths happening on our roads.

I'm the son of a long-distance truck driver. I'm the father of a long-distance truck driver. I absolutely have fears every night: are my mates and my son safe out there on the highway and are other road users safe out on the highway? Every truck in this country should have a driver that is rested safely. He or she should be paid a rate that will cover their fixed costs and their variable costs, and give them a working wage—not wage theft from so-and-sos, like these mongrels here from Britain Tip Top. And I'm not making this up. So I challenge anyone from Tip Top, if you're listening, to write me a letter and tell me I'm wrong; tell me that Mark Goldfinch, Paul Clapson and all their mates—about eight of them—haven't had wage theft. What a disgusting company!