Rowland takes Truss to task over safe rates jibe

Labor backbencher accuses Nationals leader Warren Truss of being "out-of-touch" and "highly misinformed" for disparaging safe rates

By Brad Gardner | November 24, 2011

A Labor backbencher has taken Nationals leader Warren Truss to task for dismissing a link between poor rates of pay in the trucking industry and low safety standards.

Greenway MP Michelle Rowland, who has previously spoken in support of the Transport Workers Union’s (TWU) safe rates campaign, has labelled Truss’ comments "highly misinformed".

Truss in September contradicted numerous academic studies in claiming there was no evidence to demonstrate higher pay rates would improve safety, adding: "Safe rates is a spurious argument at best."

"What nonsense. These highly out-of-touch comments run contrary to the views of the industry, academics and the truck drivers in my electorate," Rowland says.

"By introducing a system of safe rates we can make a real impact on road fatalities and help our truck drivers to make it home to their families."

Rowland says constituents have approached her with stories of truck drivers being forced to work to impossible deadlines, risking their own lives and those of the other road users.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the new tribunal to be set up within Fair Work Australia from July 1 next year will improve safety standards by making sure employee drivers and independent contractors are paid enough to do their jobs safely.

"All Australians rely on the trucking industry, but for too long we’ve turned a blind eye to dangerous work practices that force some drivers to speed or drive excessive hours," she says.

"We’ll create an industry tribunal with powers to set pay and pay-related conditions where poor safety outcomes are linked to low rates of pay. And we’ll make sure drivers are paid for all the time they work and aren’t forced to drive dangerously to earn a decent wage."

While the union movement has backed the creation of the tribunal, the Australian Industry Group and the Australian Logistics Council fear the reform will merely increase the industry's regulatory burden.

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