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AgLife: Wimmera farmers raise concerns

By Colin MacGillivray

Victorian Farmers Federation Wimmera Branch members are aiming to discuss a host of issues raised at a meeting earlier this month with Member for Mallee Anne Webster and Regional Roads Victoria.

Members discussed a range of issues at the meeting on November 4, the most pressing of which was a lack of telecommunications infrastructure necessary to pay employees using a web-based Superannuation Clearing House service.

Branch president Graeme Maher said the group would seek a meeting with Dr Webster in the new year to discuss their concerns about the state of telecommunications infrastructure in the region.

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Mr Maher said members had raised other concerns during the meeting that the group would look to take further.

He said farmers were anxious about a new State Government industrial manslaughter law introduced to parliament last month.

He said the law put undue pressure on employers and gave too many investigatory powers to WorkSafe.

“As I understand it, if you take a work car to the races and have too much to drink and have an accident and someone dies in that accident, the person in charge of your office is then liable for industrial manslaughter with up to a 20-year prison term because you were an employee who did the wrong thing,” he said.

“If an employee does something wrong, the employer is liable.

“The investigations will be carried out by WorkSafe, who are entitled to come in and go through all your notes and all your books without any permission.

“The police need to get search warrants and all the rest of it, but WorkSafe does not have that requirement and can walk in and demand everything. That is truly scary.

“Imagine if a 15-year-old son on a farm pinches a motorbike, has an accident and dies. His father is then charged with industrial manslaughter and may go to jail for 20 years.

“That leaves a wife without a child and without a husband.”

Mr Maher said many of the members’ other concerns related to roads in the region.

“The number and size of the trucks is ever-increasing and some of the intersections are not built to cater for them,” he said.

“If you’re turning right down Golf Course Road in Horsham, you’ve got to wait for two lanes of traffic to clear to cross it with a B-double. That is a recipe for disaster.

“Then you look at Shannon Brothers opposite O’Connors on the Western Highway and there is no allocation for large vehicles to turn down there.

“If a train is coming, a vehicle just has to wait on the highway.

“There is a requirement for some serious big-picture planning on transport movement around Horsham.

“As people who drive trucks, we’re really worried about where that is heading.”

Mr Maher said the group was due to meet with Regional Roads Victoria to discuss its concerns but was doubtful of a satisfactory outcome.

“We have pencilled in an agreement with Regional Roads Victoria for our next meeting, but they are usually hamstrung,” he said.

“They’ll come along and say, ‘we’ve listened to you, we acknowledge your problems, but we haven’t got any money’.”

Mr Maher said other road-related frustrations included licencing requirements for driving telehandlers.

“VicRoads struggles to find a category for them, so the rules as they stand require you to have a crane licence to drive them, which is a three-day course and costs quite a lot of money,” he said.

“If you don’t have that licence and something goes wrong, you’re liable.

“So everyone who drives a telehandler at the moment is required to have a crane licence, which is just ridiculous.”

Mr Maher said another point raised was the stalling of the State Government’s Murray Basin Rail Project after it ran out of money.

The meeting was addressed by guest speaker Simon McNair, a grain growers’ advocate who told members about the importance of checking who they sell their grain to and signing contracts.

The entire November 27, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire November 27, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!