Robert Gottliebsen, 04 April 2016

In a weekend of dramatic developments, Queensland Senator Glenn Lazarus became the first crossbencher to take up my call to support repealing the legislation that set up the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (A plea to the Senate crossbenchers).

As I will explain below, the stand by the former rugby league great makes a double dissolution less likely and the whole debate is headed for the High Court because of constitutional issues.

Starting today, according to the tribunal ruling, long-haul owner-drivers are required to lift their rates two- or threefold, while the big transport operators employing Transport Workers Union people have no such requirement and so are able to undercut owner-drivers, thereby decimating their business.

There are at least 35,000 owner-drivers and the tribunal ruling will create a huge series of bankruptcies and forced selling of property as the TWU friendly operators take the best contracts. Farmers that don’t get a cut-price deal from the TWU operators will be hit very hard. It will almost certainly cause an Australian recession.

During the weekend, crossbencher Nick Xenophon said he had no idea of the repercussions when he supported the legislation that established the tribunal.

We will forgive him for that mistake but there is evidence that Julia Gillard and the TWU knew exactly what was being planned when they introduced the legislation.

Xenophon should have been awake to the TWU/Gillard plan.

South Australia is set to be savaged by the tribunal’s ruling and all eyes will be in Xenophon to see if he is prepared to remedy his mistake by joining other crossbenchers in repealing the tribunal legislation.

An enormous rally of truck drivers is planned for South Australia as soon- to-be-ravaged owner-drivers and the South Australian based independent operators realise the full impact of the TWU and Tribunal actions.

Meanwhile, the Independent Contractors of Australia has received top legal advice that the transport tribunal is making transport price rulings that are unconstitutional.

Back in 1973, the Whitlam government called a referendum and Australians were asked the 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”?

The Commonwealth had returned the power to control prices to the states after the war and Whitlam thought price control was the way to cut back what was then high inflation. Australians emphatically rejected the constitutional change.

But no one in their wildest dreams could have envisaged that a Commonwealth government would set up a tribunal which would try to use what appears to be non-existent Commonwealth powers to lift the prices charged by one group in the society so larger, union-backed operators can savage that group’s market share.

But no one can ever be sure of what is decided in High Court cases so only by repealing the legislation can we be certain of avoiding the impact.

The Australian Industry Group is seeking to have the tribunal’s imposition delayed but that’s just a temporary band-aid solution (Ai Group court bid on truckie pay rates). Band aids may help in the short term, but the repeal of the legislation is the only answer.

Senator Glenn Lazarus took to social media yesterday: “Brisbane is just a WALL of trucks at the moment! If the TRIBUNAL doesn’t listen and put the order on hold for a year this week so we can work together to review it, I will be putting up legislation on the 18th of April when the Senate sits to ABOLISH the TRIBUNAL”.

In my view, while it is possible that the TWU and the Tribunal may agree to mothball everything for a year, they show no signs of doing that. Worse still, in a year’s time the Senate will be totally different.

It’s likely that the ALP and the Greens will control the Senate after the election and both parties are dependent on massive grants from the union movement. On matters like this they will do what they are told.

At the moment the crossbenchers and the government have a majority in the Senate. Australia has only one opportunity to abolish the tribunal — the looming special sitting of parliament.

If six of the eight crossbenchers ask the government to abolish the tribunal the government is likely to agree, provided the crossbenchers also support the reinstatement of the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

If the crossbenchers ask the government to insert a simple clause that makes it a criminal offence for directors and executives to pay money to unions, as recommended in the Heydon report, the government will probably agree.

In that situation there will be no double dissolution.

The background to these events was described in my previous articles (The high toll of punishing truckies) andTruckies are on the road to ruin).

Extracted in full from The Australian.