Under-fire Sheldon quits NTC board before appointment

By: Chris Smith

Transport Workers Union (TWU) boss Tony Sheldon has withdrawn his nomination as a commissioner at the National Transport Commission (NTC)

Transport Workers Union (TWU) boss Tony Sheldon has withdrawn his nomination as a commissioner at the National Transport Commission (NTC) amid a political firestorm over the union's involvement in party donations.

Bus+ Coach's sister publication ATN exclusively revealed last week the controversial union heavyweight was set to take his place on the NTC board after being nominated by Labor transport ministers.

But a second report on Channel Nine's Sunday program yesterday regarding the alleged misappropriation of training funds from employers has put pay to his ambitions to join the nation's leading transport policy organisation.

Despite Sheldon telling ATN he looked forward to campaigning on safety issues at the NTC, he now says he cannot take his place on the board to focus attention on driver safety.

"I have reached this conclusion so the community can focus on the real safety challenges in the heavy vehicle industry, free from the distractions caused by a political campaign being waged against the Transport Workers Union's efforts to clean up long distance transport," Sheldon says.

"Safe rates, so transport workers aren't subject to the intense economic pressures caused by principal employers/clients, heavy vehicle rest stop reform and properly enforced road safety laws are all initiatives that I look forward to pursuing along with my colleagues across the country."

The Federal Government, which appoints commissioners to the NTC, refused to dismiss Sheldon's nomination yesterday following the Sunday report.

The Government has also ruled out an inquiry into the TWU, rejecting the Opposition's calls for a judicial review.

Sheldon has denied claims the union funneled money from its training fund into campaigns for Labor candidates during the last federal election.

But the TWU's own audit found discrepancies concerning its spending activities.

"We did identify a small number of items that, in our opinion, and from the evidence gathered, many not meet the stated objectives of the fund," the report says.

It also found the TWU had no procedures in place to determine whether funds were spent for general purposes or for specific activities relating to the training council.

Sheldon says the union will restructure the council based on the audit's recommendations.

He says the union will continue to pursue "rogue transport operators".

"The TWU has a responsibility and an obligation to our members and to every other road user in this State to ensure that rogue transport companies do not break the law," he says in the statement.

Sheldon reveals an ongoing investigation into a New South Wales transport operator based on the north coast has uncovered at least 400 alleged breaches of driving hours between January and June last year.

"This investigation was initiated as a result of a complaint by a family member of a suicide victim who believed that excessive driving hours, and the associated drug usage, to meet unreasonable demands from clients/principal employers was a reason for their death," he says.

"These breaches are a threat to every single person who shares the road with these rogue transport companies."

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