LEICHHARDT MP Warren Entsch is urging local truckie owner-drivers to make their views heard as the Government carries out urgent consultations on the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s ‘safe rates’ determination.
Over the weekend, the Federal Court granted a stay of the Tribunal’s Payments Order, which would have resulted in a massive hike in the cost of freight carried by self-employed owner-drivers on journeys that are long-haul, traverse states or territories, or are part of a supermarket supply chain.
“Over recent weeks I’ve had a lot of operators contact me absolutely livid at this Payments Order that was due to come into effect on Monday 4th April,” Mr Entsch said.
“While owner-operators would have had to charge clients these ‘safe rates’ that would have tripled or quadrupled the cost of their service, people would have been able to ask transport companies with employed drivers to carry their goods and the rates wouldn’t have applied.
“There was little advance warning; the Order has nothing to do with improving safety and everything to do with consolidating the unions' control over the sector.”
Late Friday, as a result of an urgent application by the Australian Industry Group, the Federal Court granted a stay of the Order – a move supported by the Coalition Government.
“We’ll also be introducing legislation into the House of Representatives on 18 April to make sure that orders setting pay rates for truck drivers cannot start before 1 January 2017,” Mr Entsch said.
“This legislation, if passed by the Senate, will provide certainty for the trucking industry while reform options for the Road Safety Remuneration system are considered by the Government.”
Yesterday, the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, also announced that given the urgency, consultations with key industry stakeholders on reform options for the system will start this week.
“This is a priority for the Government as owner-drivers are the life-blood of our economy and the $51 billion industry has huge flow-on effects. Anything which threatens their viability will have significant implications across the country – this is not something we will tolerate,” Mr Entsch said.
The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was set up by the Gillard Labor government in 2012 at the urging of the Transport Workers Union, with the aim of reducing accidents in the industry through addressing issues such as driver fatigue and vehicle overloading.
However a Price Waterhouse Cooper review, which held extensive consultations with industry, the Transport Workers Union, owner-driver representatives and relevant government bodies, found there was no link between remuneration and safety.
“Labor's road safety remuneration system would have cost our economy more than $2 billion over 15 years and driven 35,000 owner-drivers to the wall,” Mr Entsch said.
“Back in 2012, the Coalition Government was vehemently opposed to the introduction of the Tribunal. However the Member for Kennedy, Bob Kattter MP, actually supported Labor in introducing this legislation. Given the hung parliament, if he and the other Independents Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor had joined us in voting against it, we wouldn’t be in this situation.
“Even as recently as 12 months ago, Mr Katter joined the TWU at a press conference in demanding the Government “abandon its plan to get rid of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal” (Media Release 26-3-15). He even congratulated the TWU for their efforts.”
Mr Entsch said the fact that Mr Katter is now jumping up and down, calling for a “full blooded enquiry and a statuary inquiry” (sic) (Media Release 4-4-16), just reinforces his hypocrisy.
“Now he says he “never dreamed it would turn into something like this” (Media Release 4-4-16), but that’s not good enough – he should know that any time you give the unions an inch, they’ll take a mile, and now it’s our hardworking local truck drivers who will suffer.”
For people who would like to be involved in the consultations, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.employment.gov.au/review-road-safety-remuneration-system for further information.