Albanese joins chorus criticising trucking shutdown

By: Jason Whittaker

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese has broken his silence on the impending truck shutdown, criticising the organisers and

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese has broken his silence on the impending truck shutdown, criticising the organisers and questioning their motives.

He has questioned the demands of the Australian Long Distance Owner Drivers Association (ALDODA) and Mick Pattel, who are campaigning for changes to the fuel excise and an end to fatigue laws respectively.

He says stopping work and threatening the supply of goods to supermarkets will not help the shutdown advocates, and demanding the "wind back of any fatigue laws" raises questions of their position on safety.

"We need to make sure that truck drivers are not placed in a position whereby they’re able to be pressured into driving longer and longer hours with the subsequent dangers to safety, not just for themselves, but for road users in general," Albanese says.

"And I’m very concerned about some of the comments that I’ve seen by some of the groups in the lead up to this action which suggests that they’re opposed to all fatigue laws.

Pattel wants the laws abolished along with demerit points for log books, which only apply in Queensland.

Albanese has also rejected claims the new laws need to be scrapped due to an insufficient number of rest areas. Although he admitted there are not enough rest areas, he says it is illogical to argue for an end to the laws on that basis.

"It certainly shouldn’t be used as an excuse to argue against all fatigue laws," he says.

However, he says the Government is taking practical measures to increase the number of rest areas by way of its $70 million safety and productivity package, which is linked to higher registration charges.

The Senate rejected the package, meaning it is unclear whether it will be implemented.

During the radio interview while in the Northern Territory for a community Cabinet meeting, Albanese indicated the Government is also looking at introducing set rates for owner-drivers which the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is pushing for.

"We’re certainly looking at a whole range of issues including the issue of safe rates, which is something the union has been campaigning for…I’ve had discussions with the union, as they have also had discussions with Julia Gillard as the workplace relations minister," he says.

The shutdown supporters have argued the industry groups and the TWU do not adequately represent truck drivers. But Albanese says they do a better job than the likes of ALDODA, Pattel and another shutdown organiser, Peter Schuback.

"The union actually has a substantial national membership and is certainly, in my view, more representative than people who can just self-appoint themselves," he says.

Albanese’s comments follow statements released by the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) and the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), refusing to support the shutdown.

"These fractured organisations when not openly criticising each other publish ever increasing demands on Governments and others which clearly display an ignorance of the Government regulatory process," QTA Chief Executive Peter Garske says.

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