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Wednesday, 2 December 2015
Page: 9616


Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (13:22): I rise to speak today about the plight of Korean truck drivers working for Pulmuone, a South Korean company. The Korean Public Service and Transport Workers Union—KPTU—TruckSol Pulmuone Chapter have been striking since September, calling on Pulmuone to take responsibility for union recognition, safety and decent conditions in its supply chain. For the past month two members have been carrying out a peaceful high-altitude protest atop a billboard toward the front of the Korea National Assembly Building in Seoul.

Pulmuone's excessive efforts to cut costs mean drivers are working 12 to 13 hours a day delivering fresh goods all over the country. Forcing drivers to engage in dangerous driving practices has led to accidents and put the public at risk. Pressure on drivers in South Korea is intense, with around 1,200 dying each year in truck related crashes. The company pressures them to illegally alter their trucks so they can overload. Overloading of trucks causes 38 per cent of truck related crashes. In addition, excessive workforce cuts mean drivers now take care of loading and unloading trucks themselves in spite of the significant dangers involved. They frequently become injured or ill as a result of the difficult work and long hours, but Pulmuone drivers have to cover all of their own hospital bills. One worker said recently: 'One of our members fell out of a forklift unloading boxes. They said to him, "If you want to keep your job, you better be out of treatment soon."' This fight is part of KPTU-TruckSol's decade-long struggle for safe rates and client responsibility.

It sounds all too familiar, doesn't it? The Safe Rates campaign that the TWU has been running for many years now is an incredibly important campaign. The Transport Workers Union has been fighting for the past 20 years for truckies to have safe rates. It is a campaign to hold the effective employers in the industry—the clients with the real economic power at the top of the supply chain—responsible for the rights, rates and conditions of the workers who move their freight.

Drivers under pressure due to low rates or impossible deadlines are more likely to skip breaks, speed, drive for longer and to drive rigs that have not been properly maintained. Truckies in this country are 15 times more likely to be killed at work than is the average Australian. Each year around 330 people are killed in truck crashes on Australian roads and thousands more are injured. The passage of the Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012 by Labor and the establishment of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal demonstrated legislative acceptance of the need to address the safety crisis.

The TWU leadership, led by national secretary, Tony Sheldon, knows the fight of the KPTU and its truck drivers is a fight for all truck drivers. Recently the International Labour Organization reaffirmed the global fight for Safe Rates and that the Pulmuone drivers' protest is essentially the same everywhere. A resolution passed by the ILO on the issue also recognises the need for 'fair and safe remuneration systems' and highlights that road transport workers in freight and passenger transport have 'some of the highest injury and fatality rates'. It states that the 'multiple supply and contracting chains' in the road transport industry 'often lead to pressures on margins that can leave transport workers unable to exercise their fundamental principles and rights at work'.

The global trade unions, the International Trade Union Confederation and the International Transport Workers' Federation have condemned the events in South Korea against transport workers and have mobilised their global networks of affiliated unions to protest to the Korean government. Today I stand united with the TWU and KPTU calling on the Korean government to stop repressing KPTU-TruckSol Pulmuone drivers and to release the imprisoned union members and officers. Further, the Korean government should facilitate negotiations between Pulmuone and the workers towards a just settlement to the dispute. We want the Korean government to respect the right to freedom of association, including the right to peaceful assembly and to strike, for all workers. For these drivers, no other issue could be as important.

I hate to do this, but I also feel the need to draw the attention of this chamber to what is going on in my hometown of Sydney. Right now there is a scourge amongst us. Today I will outline how the decision of the Mayor of Ryde, a Mr. Jerome Laxale, someone I am ashamed to say I could once call a friend, not to wear mayoral robes will, according to the Liberal colleagues he has on his council, inevitably lead to the imposition of Sharia Law! Some of you may laugh. Some of you may think it is a trivial matter. Some of you may think these robes that are meant to be worn by the mayors are just glorified bathrobes. I can assure you there is nothing funny about this!

As has been bravely pointed out by Liberal Councillor Bill Pickering, Mayor Laxale is on a slippery slope. You see, only Bill has the guts to tell things how they are. Let me quote you some of the passionate statements made by Bill in defence of our important traditions:

Senator Smith: Madam Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I was confused for a second; this is the Australian Senate chamber, not the local council chambers at—

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Lines ): I think that is a debating point. Senator Dastyari.

Senator DASTYARI: Councillor Pickering is quite well known to Senator Sinodinos over there. He is someone he would have known quite well over the years. But Councillor Pickering does say:

I don't care whether the Mayor has personal vanity reasons or some obscure political objection for not following tradition …

I therefore advise that until the Mayor changes his attitude to acknowledge proper tradition and protocols, I will not attend any citizenship ceremony where he is presiding.

That's right: this Liberal Party councillor is such a staunch defender of Australian values that he would boycott Australia Day citizenship celebrations because of the mayor's refusal to wear red bathrobes—because, as we all know in this chamber, there is nothing more Australian than a man wearing a bathrobe covered in gold chains being present at a citizenship ceremony!

But it does not end there. Our Liberal friend knows what this bathrobe boycott is really about. You see, our friend Bill has:

… a deep-seated commitment for preserving our traditions - despite the 'looney left' and anti-establishment anarchists grotesquely tearing apart Australia …

They are his words. He goes on to say:

Next, the Left scumbags will oppose the honouring of the Australian flag, stop singing the national anthem, stop a prayer opening for council meetings and want Sharia Law introduced … or as I suspect, they are already doing that.

We all know what the sequence looks like. We begin with true Australian values. Then we allow civic leaders to stop wearing their bathrobes, and, before you know it, we are all struggling to eat pork-substitute sausages because our burqa is getting in the way! This Senate and this parliament need to acknowledge that Jerome Laxale, the Mayor of Ryde, needs to be stopped in his plans to destroy Australia!