The cost breakdown of the report, obtained under FOI, reveals that all money was spent on these public sessions with no other source of information used to compile the report.
“These documents reveal an interesting point about the Ombudsman’s report: the sole basis for the report was the public sessions, where anyone could turn up and voice their opinion. No money was spent gathering facts detailing the actual financial impact of the Order. The report itself admits that and also admits few truck drivers attended these sessions. To say this report is unscientific and a waste of money is a gross understatement,” TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.
The $37,000 includes over $15,000 on promoting and advertising the sessions and over $15,000 on flights, accommodation and meals for Ombudsman officials attending the sessions. Catering at the session was over $4,000 while hiring of venues cost $1,700. While no cost breakdown is given for staff time spent working on the report, documents shows: “all ASBFEO staff worked on compiling the report over the length of the inquiry which was 129 days,” the document adds.
The Ombudsman’s final report admits “only a relatively small number of truck drivers participated in the inquiry” (page 3). It also admits its findings on the “crippling” effect of the Order are not based on actual findings. “It may be difficult to gather factual evidence to show the extent that financial difficulties are attributable to the Payments Order”, it states (page 39).
“In the space of the last two weeks five truck drivers have died in crashes. The Ombudsman Kate Carnell helped destroy a system that was aiming to stop the carnage on the roads by ensuring an end to pressure on drivers to speed, drive long hours, skip breaks and overload their vehicles. The system also guaranteed drivers payment for work within 30 days. Ms Carnell then spent thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a report trying to demonise that system. But it has failed because her report is utterly bogus,” Sheldon added.
The report attributes the suicide of one driver in Queensland to the effect of the rates Order without any evidence linking the two. It adds: “Attendees at multiple forums stated that they were aware of small operators who are reportedly considering suicide once they have their personal affairs in order”.
“Given the high suicide rate and mental health problems among truck drivers it is a particularly cynical move to attribute the two-week rates Order to a specific suicide or suicides without any basis. There is real pressure on truck drivers and much of that stems from the poor rates they are forced to subsist on. The Order was trying to tackle this and it is a shameful thing that an Ombudsman tasked with independently representing small transport businesses failed to do her job in this regard,” Sheldon added.
READ FOI REQUEST DOCUMENTS HERE