Jared Owens, 19 April 2016

Bill Shorten has stopped short of pledging to reinstate the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal if he wins government on July 2, but has reaffirmed the opposition’s commitment to higher pay for self-employed drivers.

The Senate crossbench last night backed the government’s legislation to abolish the tribunal, after a pay order that owner-drivers claimed threatened to force them out of business.

The opposition had acknowledged some “problems” with the latest wage order and urged the government to sit down with businesses and unions to hammer out a compromise.

Mr Shorten, asked today whether a Shorten Labor government would reinstate the tribunal, said: “We’ll have to see what we do. But I can guarantee that a vote for Labor is a vote for better safety on our roads.

“Owner-drivers are the victims of low rates of pay in a very fragmented industry. The evidence shows that owner-drivers get paid a lot less than employee drivers. The evidence shows that owner-drivers have a system of remuneration which creates greater fatigue, which creates greater risks,” the Opposition Leader said in Canberra.

“210 people died in heavy vehicle collisions last year. The national fatality rate in the heavy vehicle industry is 12-times the national average. Now the government likes to say remuneration has nothing to do with safety, but the evidence shows the exact opposite.”

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said the tribunal’s pay order had “almost decimated” the owner-driver industry in recent weeks.

“There is no doubt that because of Bill Shorten’s ties with the union movement — whether it be the MUA, the CFMEU, the TWU — a vote for Labor will be to restore the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and quite literally it will signal the end for owner-drivers in Australia,” Senator Cash said, referring to the unions representing stevedores, construction workers and employee truck drivers.

“A Coalition government led by Malcolm Turnbull and Barnaby Joyce will ensure that our owner-drivers — our tens of thousands of mums and dads, small business owners — stay on the road. That is our mission and that is our pledge.”

Extracted in full from The Australian.