Senate agrees to Sterle-driven trucking inquiry

Senator sees big-customer pressure as spur for move

Senate agrees to Sterle-driven trucking inquiry
Glenn Sterle in the Senate


The Senate has voted to establish an inquiry into the Australian road transport and freight industry in a win for ALP senator and parliamentary industry and union champion Glenn Sterle.

In welcoming the 'Importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry' inquiry, , the Transport Workers Union (TWU) flags its intention to continue its campaign against the ‘gig economy’, pointing to recent Californian regulatory action on the sector.

Sterle’s office says the inquiry’s terms of reference "were months in the making and came out of sheer desperation from an industry that is severely being squeezed from the top of the supply chain.

"Following numerous conversations and meetings with drivers, subcontractors, state and national transport associations, trainers, academia, small, medium and large employers and the TWU, Sterle convened two Transport Industry Standards Forums to bring representatives from all sectors of the transport industry together to work on establishing a clear pathway forward to address the pressures and challenges within the industry."

At the second forum held in August, the group agreed the path and the terms of reference the Senate has now endorsed.

"We now have a unique opportunity to look into every aspect of the transport sector so that we can inform the government, through the committee’s final report of what needs to change in order to make our industry safe and sustainable," Sterle says.  

"This inquiry will be far reaching and all-encompassing and I encourage anyone who is interested in or who is affected by the transport and freight industry to make a submission to the committee.

"I would like to thank all cross bench senators for their support in establishing this inquiry however, it is important to note that the government did everything it could to stop this inquiry from getting up.

"This raises serious concerns about the vested interests that the government is conniving with at the top of the supply chain." 

Read about how the inquiry’s terms of reference were agreed, here

The TWU is focused strongly on Uber’s and Amazon's freight systems, which it believes will atomise the industry leaving the mega-company in complete control and with little recourse or protection from their demands.

On Tuesday, both Californian legislative houses voted overwhelmingly to have relevant "app-based companies" designate workers as employees rather than contractors.

"Standards are almost non-existent in our industry and they are potentially going to get a lot worse thanks to the likes of Uber and Amazon," national secretary Michael Kaine says.

He adds that the California legislation "proves that standards in the gig economy can be introduced and that workers can have rights."

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) sees the inquiry as a positive, describing the terms of reference as far-reaching, spanning issues of importance to employers, owner-drivers and employees including road transport infrastructure, training and education, safety, technology, remuneration and the impacts of regulation and legislation across the industry.

"Australian and international supply chains experience ongoing change which has material impacts on freight and logistics operators, the businesses that supply them, and of course the transport workers they employ," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"Government has an important role to play in ensuring we have the right legislative and regulatory frameworks in place to anticipate and overcome existing and future challenges which is why we welcome this important Road Transport Industry Inquiry.

"The inquiry will contribute to the maintenance of a viable and sustainable transport industry, which is what VTA members and supporters need to be able to confidently invest in their businesses and put more Australians to work in transport."

Submissions to the inquiry close on October 17.


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