Naomi Woodley, 05 April 2016

The Federal Government will ask Parliament to override an independent tribunal and delay the introduction of new minimum payment rates for contractors in the trucking industry.

The new rates, set by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), were due to come into effect yesterday, but the National Road Transport Association successfully filed an injunction in the Federal Court.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said legislation would be introduced to Parliament on April 18 to delay the introduction of the new rates until January 1, 2017.

The move is likely to receive enough support to pass Parliament but some crossbench senators are concerned about the Government’s tactics.

“I’m a bit concerned that it may be attached to whether or not we pass the ABCC [Australian Building and Construction Commission],” Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus said.

Senator Lazarus said he would support the Government’s bill because the owner-operator truck drivers he had spoken to were in despair about their future.

“Truck drivers are now getting their letters, from these big transport companies, saying they won’t be required to come on Monday because they can’t afford to use them,” he said.

The Government is also likely to receive support from crossbench senators Dio Wang, Nick Xenophon, Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm, but Victorian Independent John Madigan is undecided.

He said he was organising a meeting between concerned drivers in regional Victoria and the Transport Workers Union.

“If there are problems that people may not have been aware of let’s discuss them in a calm, rational manner, and find solutions to address those issues,” Senator Madigan said.

But the Greens said the new rates were designed to protect owner-operator truck drivers and should be maintained.

“They’re under pressure to deliver on time, they’re under pressure to work around the clock, and if you want safe roads you have to have regulation,” the Greens MP Adam Bandt said.

Government to consult on RSRT’s future

The RSRT was set up by the previous Labor government in 2012 to improve road safety and standards in the transport industry.

The Government said it would begin consultations this week on the RSRT’s future.

Shadow Employment Minister Brendan O’Connor acknowledged there were concerns about the new rates, but he said the Government was being heavy-handed.

“The best approach is not really taking it to Parliament and seeking to ram something through the Parliament,” he said.

“I would consider it be more appropriate for the Minister for Employment to sit down with all affected parties, and see if we can find a settlement to this matter.

“The last thing I want to see, though, is public policy causing an incidence of death or injury on our roads, nobody wants to see that.”

Labor is promising to fight any move to abolish the RSRT, but Senator Lazarus said he would introduce his own bill to do that if the Government did not act.

“Abolish it and start again, bring every interested party to the table and nut out something that everybody can operate to a level playing field,” he said.

Extracted in full from ABC News.

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