Constitutional limitations on safe rates a 'bureaucratic nightmare'

ALC tells parliamentary committee that companies will face a "bureaucratic nightmare" when using sub-contractors if safe rates tribunal is introduced

Constitutional limitations on safe rates a 'bureaucratic nightmare'
Constitutional limitations on safe rates a 'bureaucratic nightmare'

By Brad Gardner | February 16, 2012

A safe rates tribunal restricted by constitutional limitations will make it a "bureaucratic nightmare" for trucking companies using sub-contractors, according to the Australian Logistics Council.

ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff (pictured) yesterday fronted a parliamentary inquiry into the proposed tribunal, warning the transport and logistics industry faces an unworkable situation should the scheme go ahead in its present form.

The Federal Government says constitutional limitations means the tribunal will cover about 80 percent of employees and 60 percent of owner-drivers. It is asking the states to refer their powers so those currently outside the Commonwealth’s reach can be covered.

Kilgariff says it is unlikely Victoria and NSW will agree to the request, while the Queensland Government’s submission to the inquiry opposes federal intervention.

"This will create an unworkable outcome as the task of engaging contractors would become a bureaucratic nightmare," Kilgariff says.
"Different rules will apply if a subcontractor is a company with shareholders, a $5 company with a single shareholder, a trust partnership or sole operator."

Kilgariff says the regulatory impact statement on the tribunal should have analysed the cost of complying with what he labelled a "fundamental weakness" of the Federal Government’s proposal.

He has also raised concerns about the tribunal’s ability to make mandatory rulings on matters such as loading practices.

"This could impact on industry efforts to implement continuous safety improvements, as practices are snap frozen to what a tribunal considers to be good practice irrespective of subsequent improvements that develop over time in workplaces," Kilgariff says.

"This is particularly the case with improvements in technology and supply chain management."

While the ALC opposes the introduction of the tribunal, Kilgariff says a number of changes must be made if it does go ahead.

This includes limiting rulings on pay rates to the long distance sector (trips over 500km) and ensuring the tribunal, when making remuneration orders, explains why existing health and safety regulations, modern awards and heavy vehicle laws are insufficient to deal with a matter.

Kilgariff says seamless regulations are the most effective way of improving safety and productivity because they will bring a national focus to existing laws such as chain of responsibility and fatigue management.

National regulations overseen by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator are due to begin on January 1, 2013.

A joint submission to the inquiry from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Department of Infrastructure and Transport says the tribunal’s decisions will be based on research and evidence.

The submission says the tribunal will factor in the impact its decisions will have on business, the economy and freight movement, while also keeping in the mind the need to reduce complexity and minimise the compliance burden.

Scheduled to begin operating on July 1, the tribunal will scrutinise individual sectors, practices and issues in the trucking industry to determine if intervention is necessary on behalf of employee drivers and owner-drivers.

"Research by the National Transport Commission (NTC) found a conclusive link between low rates of pay and risky work practices by drivers. These risky practices include speeding, excessive hours and using illicit substances," the joint submission from DEEWR and the Department of Infrastructure and Transport says.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) sharpened its attack against major retailers in the lead-up to the parliamentary inquiry, accusing them yesterday of being directly responsible for road deaths due to the delivery schedules they impose.

The Queensland Government’s submission to the inquiry says the state does not support the introduction of a tribunal and does not believe setting specific pay rates will encourage safer work practices.

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