$7 Million Financial Link Between Wesfarmers And Liberal Party Revealed

Nov 11, 2015

TWU MEDIA RELEASE, 11 November 2015

The Transport Workers’ Union is demanding the Government drop its opposition to the road safety watchdog after a $7 million link between Wesfarmers and the Liberal Party has been revealed.

Wealthy retailer Coles, which is owned by Wesfarmers, opposes the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, set up to save lives on the road by tackling pressure in trucking.

A financial link of $5.3 million exists between Wesfarmers and the Liberal Party, in the form of dividends drawn down from Wesfarmers shares owned by the Cormack Foundation, an associated entity of the Liberal Party.

A further $1.7 million in political donations was given by Wesfarmers and Coles to the Liberal and National parties.

“This financial link exposes why the Government opposes a Tribunal aiming to save lives. At the very least, the Liberal Party has a stake in ensuring Wesfarmers turn a large profit each year since they benefit from their shares. But at worst it proves that money can buy you political influence,” said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

The financial links come ahead of Wesfarmers annual general meeting on November 12th where they will celebrate $2.44 billion profit. But while the company’s growth and sales are up, its annual accounts show it has cut freight costs by $13 million.

The TWU will hold rallies around the country tomorrow to highlight the effect of these cuts on the trucking community.

“We are calling on Coles to stop putting profit before people. Coles’ revenues are $38 billion yet this company cuts its transport contracts each year. By doing this it is ultimately responsible for pressure on drivers to speed, drive long hours with over-loaded vehicles in a stressed and tired state. This leads to the 330 deaths on our roads each year in truck related crashes,” said Sheldon.


1.    Financial links between Wesfarmers and Liberal Party

Click here for the full break-down of the financial links:

2.    TWU work on political donations

The TWU has for several years been pushing for all political parties to support a national commission to investigate corruption. The union was highly supportive of a resolution at ACTU congress this year which called for a national Independent Commission Against Corruption with powers to investigate federal MPs, public servants and party officials. The resolution also demands transparency in political donations with real-time disclosures of donations over $1,000 and information on which organisation is donating and why.

3.    Evidence of link between safety and pay rates

Numerous academic studies have established the link between safety and rates of pay including the National Transport Commission’s report on Remuneration and Safety in the Australian Heavy Vehicle Industry (2008) which said practices by the retail industry affecting road transport “can play a direct and significant role in causing hazardous practices”. It adds: “There is solid survey evidence linking payment levels and systems to crashes, speeding, driving while fatigued and drug use”.

4.    Evidence of pressure

A Safe Work Australia report in July showed
•    31% of employers say workers ignore safety rules to get the job done
•    20% accept dangerous behaviour, compared to less than 2% in other industries.
•    20% of transport industry employers break safety rules to meet deadlines – this compares with just 6% of employers in other industries.

5. Why wealthy retailers are the problem

The Wesfarmers/Coles annual results in August showed
•    Wesfarmers profits increased by over 60% to $2.44 billion
•    Coles’ revenues were up 2% to $38 billion
•    Freight costs down by $13 million at a time when revenue growth is up 3.8%.

Meanwhile, an audit this year of three transport operators at the Coles Distribution Centre at Eastern Creek in NSW found 126 breaches of National Heavy Vehicle Regulations. These included drivers forced to mark loading and unloading time as rest time and drivers denied their rest time during more than 11 hours driving.

6. Low pay among drivers

•    29% of owner drivers are underpaid in the current remuneration system
•    $29,000 average owner driver income
(Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011, Regulation Impact Statement)

7. What is the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal

The RSRT has the power to inquire into practices in the road transport industry, including holding major clients like Coles to account for how their business practices affect safety throughout the supply chain
•    It began operating in July 2012
•    The RSRT is able to make orders on:
– Minimum remuneration for employee drivers and owner-drivers
– Industry practices for loading and unloading vehicles, waiting times, working hours, load limits, payment methods and payment periods
– Ways of reducing or removing remuneration-related incentives, pressures and practices that contribute to unsafe work practices.
•    So far it has begun inquiries into five sectors: retail and long distance; oil, fuel and gas; cash-in-transit; waste; and port and wharf sector.
•    It has made an important order requiring truck drivers to be paid within 30 days and has issued a draft ruling setting down minimum safe rates for drivers in retails and long-distance.

© 2016 Transport Workers' Union of Australia.
Authorised by Tony Sheldon, TWU National Secretary, 388-390 Sussex St, Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia.