Bill to abolish truckie tribunal passes, receives assent

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Bill to abolish truckie tribunal passes, receives assent

The bill to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) passed both houses of Parliament last night with crossbencher support and received Royal Assent this morning, meaning it will take effect in two days.

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The bill to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) passed both Houses of Parliament last night with crossbencher support and received royal assent this morning, meaning it will take effect in two days. 

The Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016 will repeal the Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012, which underpins the RSRT, and allow the government to make rules dealing with transitional matters.

According to the explanatory statement, the RSRT’s resources will be redirected to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

A better resourced NHVR promised


Minister for Transport Darren Chester said that while the RSRT was established to make the road transport industry fairer and safer, the evidence was that after four years in operation, it had not achieved either of those aims. 

"Small operators are telling us that the remuneration system risks harming their businesses, without doing anything to improve the safety of the industry,” he said. 

"A tribunal of industrial umpires cannot claim to be experts in road safety.”

Minister Chester indicated that redirecting funding from the RSRT to the NHVR would improve safety in the road transport industry as the latter had the expert knowledge and understanding necessary to do so. 

Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash explained the government would be consulting with state and territory governments as well as industry to determine how NHVR should use RSRT resources, which amounts to $4 million per year, to materially improve road safety. 

"Everyone supports a safer heavy vehicle industry, but clearly the answer is not to put tens of thousands of owner-drivers off the road through a central wage fixing policy.

"A better resourced National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, working together with government and with industry, is the best mechanism for achieving real safety outcomes for the heavy vehicle sector and the broader community."

Employer groups welcome bill's passage


The passage of the bill has been welcomed by Ai Group chief executive Innes Willox, who said: “The idea that paying drivers more or differently will improve road safety has been rightly rejected by Parliament.”

The development was also welcomed by NatRoad CEO Warren Clark. He said abolishing the RSRT would prevent up to 40,000 small, family owned businesses from going under and thanked crossbenchers including Senators Glenn Lazarus, Jacquie Lambie and John Madigan for supporting the bill’s passage.

Scott Barklamb, the executive director of AMMA, said the resource industry employer group was “breathing a sigh of relief” over Parliament’s decision to abolish the RSRT.  

“Rarely is it a good idea to conflate safety with the self-serving workplace relations agendas of highly political organisations such as the Transport Workers Union (TWU),” he said.
 
“AMMA supports existing safety regulators being provided with any additional resources necessary to properly address safety issues for the road transport sector. We never supported an unnecessary new tribunal that was always going to try to force owner-drivers out of business and boost the TWU’s membership.” 

Meanwhile, Shadow Minister for Employment Brendan O’Connor said the Coalition Government had, by introducing the bill, set a “deeply disturbing precedent for the concept of an independent umpire and safety on our roads.

“…the Tribunal established specifically to reduce accidents which cause death and serious injury is now defunct.

“This decision is extraordinary, disproportionate and dangerous given the body of evidence that links pay and safety on our roads.”

Government to get rid of controversial order


During her second reading speech for the repeal bill, Minister Cash yesterday said the government would make sure the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 was “gone” as soon as the RSRT had been abolished. 

She gave three reasons why the controversial order would not improve road safety:

"Firstly, there is no tangible link between paying drivers more and improved road safety. As one owner driver explained to me, if you pay the cowboy drivers more, because they are cowboys, they will just drive more – more hours, longer distances, to get that money. This creates increased risk to road users, not safer roads.

"Secondly, the Payments Order applies to only owner drivers. Road accidents involving trucks occur with both owner drivers and employee drivers… To single one group out, effectively branding them as unsafe, is not only unfair, but it's also wrong, and enormously insulting.

"Finally, the Payments Order does not require an owner driver to have a minimum number of rest breaks on their journey, nor does it require a truck to have the latest fatigue management equipment installed. And it doesn't require the owner driver to undergo any training on road safety. These practical measures have all been recognised as having a significant impact on safety and yet the order doesn't mention them."
 
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