ICA wants to challenge RSRT in the High Court


Contractors’ lobby seeks cash to tackle ‘safe rates’ RSRO on constitutional grounds

ICA wants to challenge RSRT in the High Court
The ICA wants a High Court decision on the RSRO.

 

Private contractor group Independent Contractors Australia aims to pit the Whitlam Government’s Prices Justification Act 1973-1974, and the referendum rejecting federal control over pricing that led to it, against the Road Safety Remuneration Act in a High Court challenge.

Its announcement and a plea for cash to fund the action came yesterday as the Federal Court was hearing arguments for a prolonged stay of the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 (RSRO), with a ruling to be made today.

"The basis of the challenge is that the Commonwealth does not have the power to fix prices charged by independent businesses," the Australian Livestock and Rural Transport Association (ALRTA) says of the move. 
 
"The ALRTA understands that in 1973, Australians comprehensively rejected the following referendum question: Do you approve the proposed law for the alteration of the Constitution entitled "An Act to alter the Constitution so as to enable the Australian Parliament to control prices"?

"Presumably, the Whitlam Government considered that it did not have power to set prices in the manner in which the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has now ordered and the ALRTA is unware of any later constitutional change that would have altered the situation."

The ICA and its executive director, Ken Phillips, raised their profile in trucking industry circles in 2014 after criticising the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for authorising a Toll-Transport Workers Union (TWU) arrangement following Toll’s admission to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption of an agreement between the company and the union that affected other companies.

Despite political moves against the RSRO and the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), the ICA says it is "not waiting for political games.

"This is too urgent.

"The [RSRT] Act allows the Tribunal to fix prices under commercial contracts of owner-drivers.

"This is an attack against small business people but has much broader and massive implications for the entire economy.

"A key to a properly functioning market economy is that businesses are free to decide the price for which they sell their goods and services. Impose price controls and we destroy a market economy. It’s anti-competitive.

We’re launching a High Court challenge. We’re saying that the Commonwealth doesn’t have the power to fix prices. That is, the Act is unconstitutional.

"In 1973 the people of Australia voted against a referendum attempt to give the Commonwealth price-fixing powers.

"This academic article from 1975 gives the background to the referendum. It says that "…it is beyond the constitutional competence of the Commonwealth to control prices…"

"We must defend owner-drivers from this ‘evil’ attack against them. We must defend our economy.

"This is expensive. We are a volunteer organization. We need your help to fund the legal case."

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