Joe Kelly, 19 April 2016

The Senate last night agreed to abolish Labor’s Road Safety ­Remuneration Tribunal, with the government winning crossbench support to scrap the controversial body.

The government rushed legislation through both houses yesterday with government Senate Leader George Brandis saying the abolition was urgent to save the livelihoods of tens of thousands of owner-drivers.

The legislation was passed with a vote of 36-32.

Senator Brandis said the tribunal, established by Julia Gillard in 2012, used the “pretext of road safety” to implement the agenda of the Transport Workers Union. “We have seen the dead hand of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments reach out to damage ordinary Australian owner-drivers and to damage the economy through the payments order made by the so-called Road Safety ­Remuneration Tribunal,” he said.

Infrastructure and Transport Minister Darren Chester ­confirmed the government would redirect more than $4 million a year to the National Heavy ­Vehicle Regulator to preserve safety outcomes, including a hi-tech network monitoring system.

“Funding allocated to the ­former RSRT will be better utilised to develop new targeted safety measures including monitoring of heavy vehicles with a national ­network of cameras,” he said.

While Labor opposed legislation to abolish the tribunal, it was prepared last night to support ­separate legislation to defer the payments order.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor acknowledged the payments order demonstrated a “lack of ­regard” for self employed truck drivers.

He warned that a more com­prehensive approach to tackling safety issues for truck drivers was required and called for a meeting to develop a strategy with all key industry stakeholders.

The abolition of the tribunal was endorsed last night by the peak body representing fuel hauliers, wholesalers and retailers, which warned that the tribunal was considering an application by the TWU for another remuneration order that could have un­intended economic consequences.

The Australian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association said the application, made by the TWU in September 2014, would impose more stringent safety requirements and compliance obligations on drivers operating in the oil, fuel and gas sector.

ACAPMA chief executive Mark McKenzie said the extra compliance obligations would see hauliers increase their prices, which would be reflected down the supply chain and see motorists paying more at the petrol bowser.

He also said the onus for ­enforcing compliance would lie, in some cases, with the operators of service stations — often small business owners.

Mr McKenzie warned they could face stiff penalties for noncompliance. “At a very rough level when this first application was put through, we estimated the cost could be as high as an average ­increase across the country of somewhere between 10 and 12c a litre in the price of fuel to motorists,” he told The Australian.

Extracted in full from The Australian.

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