Abetz announces review of RSRT

Federal Government brings in independent consultant to review the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal

Abetz announces review of RSRT
Abetz announces review of RSRT
November 21, 2013

The future of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) will be decided by early next year, after the Federal Government announced a review of the fledgling body.

Employment Minister Eric Abetz (pictured) has brought in independent consultant Rex Deighton-Smith to head the review, which will assess legislation underpinning the RSRT and advise whether the tribunal represents an effective means of addressing safety in the trucking industry.

Abetz says Deighton-Smith will complete the review in the first quarter of 2014.

"We already have a number of measures in place dealing with road safety in our transport system, including the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator," Abetz says.

"We want to establish whether there is sufficient evidence that a separate additional tribunal and a further level of regulation is the right way to improve safety on our roads."

Abetz claims the Government is listening to industry concerns that the tribunal could overlap with and undermine other regulations.

He says the review will invite submissions from a broad range of stakeholders, but the Government has not yet released details on how parties can make a submission.

"We welcome input from industry and the community on this vital issue and look forward to receiving the recommendations of the independent reviewer," Abetz says.

When in opposition, the Abbott administration opposed the creation of the RSRT and dismissed a link between rates of pay and safety.

Transport Workers Union (TWU) National Secretary Tony Sheldon says the review shows contempt for the families of people killed in truck crashes and a casual disregard for the pressure clients exert on truck drivers.

Sheldon believes the Government intends to shut the RSRT down, regardless of the evidence presented to the review.

He accused a "sneering" Abetz of dismissing the RSRT as a burden on business. Sheldon says the tribunal is an effective means to reduce pressures on truck drivers and save lives.

"It can intervene to set pay or conditions where clients put economic pressure on transport companies and drivers to drive unsafely, skip rest breaks or skip maintenance on their vehicles," he says.

"The Minister needs to understand - safer roads are not a burden. They're an obligation on government."

Sheldon says the TWU will be making its case to Abetz.

"The Road Safety [Remuneration] Tribunal is there to crack down on those industry clients who set lunatic deadlines and force drivers to speed or drive too long," Sheldon says.

"But Abetz's message to the families of crash victims is road safety is too hard."

Specifically, the review will:
• assess the regulatory and economic burden of the Road Safety Remuneration System on participants in the road transport industry and the Australian economy generally;
• examine whether other Commonwealth, state and territory regulations and initiatives provide a more appropriate means of improving safety outcomes in the road transport industry;
• examine any available evidence about the impacts of the Road Safety Remuneration System on improving road safety (e.g. accident data);
• assess the operation and conduct of the Tribunal and the extent to which it has achieved its aim and objectives;
• consult relevant stakeholders as necessary; and
• make recommendations to Government, based on the evidence and assessment above.

The Federal Government says the principles of eliminating duplication of regulation and ensuring regulations and policies for improving safety in the industry are based on credible evidence will guide the review.

A 2011 regulatory impact statement on legislation to create tribunal found that the RSRT would reduce heavy vehicle crashes by 25 per cent if almost all owner-drivers received higher pay rates.

Prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the document claims 29 per cent of owner-drivers in Australia earn less than the minimum wage.

The RSRT was established in response to a 2008 National Transport Commission (NTC) study that found low rates of pay led to unsafe practices in the transport industry.

The RSRT has the power to set rates and conditions throughout the industry or individual sectors if it believes doing so will improve safety. It also serves as a dispute resolution tribunal for operators, owner-drivers and employees.

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