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Tuesday, 23 September 2008
Page: 29

Senator HEFFERNAN (10:05 PM) —That was a lovely little speech but it neglected to come to terms with what Mick Keelty said last year was the greatest threat to Australia’s sovereignty and that will be climate change. The science prediction says that in 50 years time there will be 1.6 billion people on the planet who will be displaced and looking for somewhere else to live. I am sure the UN will not be able to manage that and I am sure that if we do not have a reasonable Defence Force we will not be able to secure our sovereignty.

Tonight I want to continue my remarks on the heavy vehicle driver fatigue law nightmare that is about to be inflicted on New South Wales, and appeal to New South Wales farmers, New South Wales farmers organisations and the New South Wales parliament—I know the parliament has been really distracted of late by everything that you would not believe politicians can get up to, and a dysfunctional government that is actually probably insolvent—to really look at this because this is a potential nightmare. I will not repeat what I said last night except to say that the laws to harmonise and protect heavy vehicle driver fatigue are very important but there needs to be a practical aspect that does not present an onerous impost on farmers who are only going five miles into town to get some dog tucker.

I appeal to New South Wales and I appeal to New South Wales farmers to wake up to themselves and understand that this is a big problem. Victoria has at least had the good sense to say that they will have an exemption for the first hundred kilometres. If you are working within 100 kilometres of your base, this does not impose itself on you. In Queensland it is 200 kilometres. In New South Wales if you go two yards you have got to fill out the log book. That is pretty sensible, don’t you think, Senator?

Adding to last night’s plethora of unbelievable circumstances in which you have got to fill out a log book—and I did say that it was ‘bloody stupid’ last night but I corrected it to say ‘blasted stupid’—a couple of blokes rang me today. One drives a school bus. The school bus has a run of 40 kilometres out in the morning. It stays in the place where it drops the kids off and then comes back 40 kilometres in the afternoon. That person has to fill out a log book.

I had a call from another town. They have a bus that goes around and picks up patrons for the club. The club bus driver has to fill out a log book. The bus does five kilometres around picking up all the pokie players, the club patrons et cetera. This is silly stuff. And, as I said, a farmer who is stripping wheat on his own property and carting it to his own silo without leaving his property actually has to log the time that he spends in the truck.

So my appeal to New South Wales farmers and to the New South Wales farmers’ organisations and to the New South Wales opposition and to the New South Wales government is: for God’s sake wake up! There is enough paperwork in the system now and this is a stupid law put together by bureaucrats who obviously have no practical experience out in the bush, a government that is dysfunctional and, I can only presume, an opposition that is asleep. Mr President, by leave, I would like to table two documents. Following my words last night, the New South Wales farmers put out a press release, which I showed to Senator Faulkner a minute ago, the New South Wales Farmers Association New heavy vehicle driver fatigue reforms, and how it affects you the farmer.

Leave granted.

We need people in parliament—and I appeal the New South Wales parliament—that understand the bush as Senator Macdonald and Senator Williams do. Senator Parry, you are a broken-down policeman and undertaker and I suppose you would know a bit about the bush and, certainly, Senator Stephens, who comes from Goulburn, would have a bit of a go. We really do need to understand that the bush can get stuffed around by well-meaning bureaucrats, who are obviously conscious of the fatigue issue for long-haulage truck drivers and the schedules that they have to put up with. But I do not see how a farmer under this legislation—which you will be pleased to know, Senator Macdonald, being a lawyer, is a lawyer’s feast—can be compliant and honest with the way that this is dealt with. If you are sitting in the line-up at the silos waiting to unload your truck with the engine turned off and you are looking through the windscreen for when the next truck is going to move up, you have got to log that as time in the truck. If you are reading the newspaper instead in the same position in the truck with the engine turned off, you log that as time off. This is stupid. I appeal to the media and to the mob in New South Wales: get off your backsides, surround the parliament, blockade the parliament, because this will be a nightmare that starts next weekend, on 29 September. Thank you very much.