Coalition puts name to legislation ditching RSRT

Big day in Parliament follows rally as anti-RSRT legislation joins effort to create building watchdog

Coalition puts name to legislation ditching RSRT
Deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, far right, at the rally.


The Coalition is moving to introduce legislation abolishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) and redirecting Tribunal resources to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) on a pivotal day for the federal government.

The Road Safety Remuneration Repeal and Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) to the Parliament on a day when mainstream and other media report that the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) would face trouble getting past the Senate, thereby bolstering its arguments for a double dissolution.

However, there seems few doubts the RSRT’s contentions Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO) would be delayed at the very least or "suspended", which is the government’s fall-back position.

Less confidence surrounds the abolition of the tribunal, though that might hinge on as few as one crossbench senator.

With a mob-hand of tie-less ministers, including prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, queueing up to be on the RSRT case, the government is refining its rhetoric and message.

"There’ll be $4 million a year saved by the abolition of the RSRT and that will all go in to support the work of the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to ensure that there is real support, practical support for safety," Turnbull tells yesterday’s owner-drivers’ rally in Canberra.

"We are all committed to safety on the roads, in the workplace, on construction sites, everywhere.

"We’re all committed to safety.

"But what this Tribunal was, as you know, was essentially a pretext. Safety was used as a means of undermining independent family businesses at the expense of a big union and the best answer we’ve got to that is to abolish it this week.

"Thank you so much for being here.

"Your courage, your determination to stand up for your family businesses is inspiring."

Infrastructure and transport minister Darren Chester told owner-drivers protesting, saying the RSRT had failed to make the intended difference while the NHVR was the correct repository of transport safety.

 "In 2012, the Labor Government established the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, suggesting that if you pay a truck driver more, they’ll drive slower and work fewer hours," Chester says.

"The tribunal was intended to make the road transport industry fairer and safer, but after almost four years in operation, the evidence shows that the Tribunal has not achieved either of these aims.

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

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

"It is the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator a combined effort of the Australian Government and most state and territory governments that has the expert knowledge and understanding needed to bring about improvements to the safety of the road transport industry."

Employment minister Michaelia Cash spoke in support of Chester.

"Assuming successful passage of the necessary legislation, the tribunal’s resources will be redirected to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator," Cash says.

"The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator will be tasked with prioritising ways in which road safety can be materially improved.

"To determine how best this resourcing can be used to re-prioritise and strengthen safety measures that will work at the roadside, the Australian Government will be consulting with state and territory governments and with industry.

"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."

In response, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) continues to bring new truck-related fatalities to bear on its arguments against RSRT abolition.

"My thoughts are with the families left devastated by these tragedies which have to be fully investigated," TWU national secretary Tony Sheldon says.

"This has been a black weekend for the trucking community and the wider community which bear the brunt of these horrific crashes.

"I am appealing to the Government not to abolish the one body tasked to examine the pressure in trucking which leads to so many tragedies.

"What other proof does the Government need that there is a problem with safety on our roads involving trucks?

"We know that a deadly cycle is at play in transport with major retailers and manufacturers squeezing transport operators and drivers with low cost contracts to the point that our roads are not safe."

In the meantime, the union has sought an RSRT delay on the RSRO.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten reiterated that the RSRT’s creation was all about safety and took Turnbull to task over a lack of previous commitment to owner-drivers.

"Mr Turnbull's never really shown any interest in truck driver safety ever in his parliamentary career," Shorten says. 

"A search of Mr Turnbull's parliamentary words in the parliament show that he's used the work truck only on eight occasions and never, and never in regard to safety or remuneration.

"Mr Turnbull probably has the votes of the crossbenchers to secure his abolition of an independent tribunal.

"Mr Turnbull should explain what he intends to do to improve the safety of truck drivers and motorists in Australia.

"What he's doing is creating a free-for-all in terms of a race to the bottom of wage rates.

"We will see truck drivers cutting corners, forced through their very low pay to take risks which will jeopardise the safety of themselves and other motorist and Mr Turnbull has shown no interest in explaining the detail of his measures to improve truck drivers’ safety and motorist safety on the roads of Australia."



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