Canberra to push for abolition of RSRT next week


ATA calls for mandatory code of conduct for trucking be added to ACCC powers

Canberra to push for abolition of RSRT next week
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says he will work to abolish the tribunal before the July elections.

 

The Coalition government will introduce legislation for the immediate abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) when the Parliament reconvenes next week.

The government will introduce two bills – the first bill will propose the termination of RSRT and the second bill will propose the Order be suspended until January 1 next year.

It is a move from prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s earlier statement, where he promised the abolition of the tribunal if he was re-elected in the federal election this July.

The announced comes after independent senator Jacqui Lambie joined senators Glenn Lazarus, David Leyonhjelm and Bob Day in calling for an immediate abolition of the tribunal and the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO).

The government has also set up a temporary hotline through the Department of Social Services to provide targeted financial advice to owner-drivers who have been negatively affected by the payment order.

Transporters can seek assistance by using the free of charge hotline 1800 007 007.

Employment minister Michaelia Cash says the government stands by the owner-drivers and will not allow their livelihoods to be destroyed by the Order.

Reiterating its call to the Senate to abolish the tribunal, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says the government must still address market power issues such as extended terms of payment, dispute resolution and force majeure.

"The ATA urges the government to use an existing and well-accepted mechanism to address market power issues – the development of a mandatory code of conduct under Part IV B of the Competition and Consumer Act.

"A mandatory code of conduct would apply to all industry participants, not just a specific segment of the industry.

"These codes of conduct are legally binding – the ACCC has the power to enforce a code, impose penalties, and follow up complaints.

"There are already five mandatory codes regulated by the ACCC, including ones covering the horticulture and franchising industries and bulk wheat leading.

"Adding another code to cover the trucking industry would be a logical and effective way to address market power issues affecting small operators.

"The first step for this code to be developed and implemented is for the Government to invite the industry to develop a draft mandatory code for consideration, and the ATA stands ready to engage with Government and industry on this matter.

"There has been some discussion that the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) could be involved in this space.

"However, it is a safety regulator, not a competition policy regulator.

"Australia already has an expert competition policy regulator through the ACCC; there is no need to invest the NHVR with overlapping sector-specific powers over competition issues."

Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO) Kate Carnell also joined widespread calls for the tribunal's termination.

"I urge those who are still weighing-up the legislation to consider the devastating ramifications the RSRT’s Payment Order will have on mum and dad owner-drivers, who have mortgaged their homes to buy a truck and forge a living for their family," Carnell says.

Carnell applauds all the politicians who have indicated their support to dismantle the RSRT.

"Drivers are telling me they face financial ruin as a result of the new minimum pay rates, which will do nothing to improve driver safety, and only force owner-operators to charge more for their services, making them uncompetitive and sending them broke."

Meanwhile, transport industry bodies including the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) and the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) are calling on all political parties to end the tribunal and repeal of the Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012.

"I urge all Members of Parliament to act in the best interests of working families and support the government's bill to abolish the RSRT when it is introduced next week," NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says.

During his meeting with Lambie on Monday, Clark suggested that the issues surrounding road safety must be handled by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), not the RSRT – a view Carnell backs.

"Safety is a priority for our members and everyone on the road. But the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is not the body to handle heavy vehicle safety – safety-related measures should be managed by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator," Clark says.

The ALC has written to all federal MPs and senators, including cross-benchers to back the abolition bill.

"The Parliament must act now to repeal the legislation establishing the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and focus its efforts on working with industry to put in place practical measures, such as on-board technologies, that can improve supply chain safety," ALC MD Michael Kilgariff says.

"The Tribunal’s Orders are resulting in regulatory overlap, confusion, inefficiencies and costs, and the Parliament needs to act as a matter of urgency to address this growing issue, which threatens to undermine industry’s efforts to improve supply chain safety and compliance."

The ALC backs NatRoad’s view that road safety matters must be under NHVR’s authority.

"In recent years, government and industry have been collaborating and developing the Heavy Vehicle National Law and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator to focus on Chain of Responsibility and drive heavy vehicle safety outcomes across Australia. 

"Improving safety in the heavy vehicle industry must be based on achieving greater compliance and enforcement of Chain of Responsibility within the Heavy Vehicle National Law.

"That approach has been working with the number of accidents involving heavy vehicles in a downward trend.

"To impose an industrially-focussed body on the industry, which overrides the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator and work health safety laws, is a counter-productive approach to dealing with supply chain safety. 

"Legislative steps need to be taken to abolish the tribunal and to redirect its funds to appropriate bodies, such as the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, to focus on safety and compliance measures that actually work." 

On the other hand, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is slamming the government for intervening in an issue that, it says, will ensure road safety by ensuring minimum pay rates for truck drivers.

"Studies show the deaths are inextricably linked to pressures drivers are under: pressure to drive long hours, to speed and forgo safety checks and maintenance," the union states.

"Meanwhile, small transport operators have one of the highest rates of bankruptcies.

"The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has the power to investigate this pressure and ensure big companies at the top of the transport supply chain are held to account for low cost contracts which cause the pressure."

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