Sarah Martin & Rosie Lewis, 11 April 2016
Independent truck drivers and crossbench senators are urging the government to scrap the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal immediately, warning that businesses are “going broke now” and cannot afford to wait until after the election.
With the government just two votes short of securing Senate support to abolish the tribunal, Independent Contractors Australia — which has launched a High Court challenge against the RSRT’s pay ruling — says Malcolm Turnbull needs to “show mettle” and move to abolish it when parliament resumes next week.
Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says the government does not have the numbers to pass laws repealing the tribunal, so instead will push ahead with legislation to delay its pay ruling until January.
The Australian can reveal the government has the numbers to delay the tribunal’s order, with Victorian senator John Madigan becoming the sixth and final crossbencher needed to pass the bill.
However, ICA director Ken Phillips said the government was “playing politics with people’s lives” by holding off on legislation to scrap the system — introduced by the Gillard government in 2012 — after the Prime Minister and Senator Cash said they would dump the tribunal if re-elected.
The Turnbull government would also redirect the RSRT’s $4 million in annual funding to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.
ICA has warned that the tribunal’s decision, which does not affect employee drivers of large companies, could put more than 35,000 self-employed, long-haul truck drivers out of business.
“We are saying to the government: show us your real mettle, make it clear that you are prepared to repeal the legislation in this sitting of parliament,” he said.
“People’s lives are being destroyed. Just fix it, don’t give us that excuse, don’t play around with it, we want the government to fight this thing all the way because delaying the decision is not going to save people’s businesses when they are going broke now.”
The government has support from at least four Senate crossbenchers to abolish the tribunal but would need two more votes to scrap the RSRT.
Senators Bob Day, Nick Xenophon, David Leyonhjelm and Glenn Lazarus want the body abolished, while John Madigan and Ricky Muir are opposed to its termination. Jacqui Lambie and Zhenya Wang are undecided.
“It is not good enough for tens of thousands of owner-operator drivers and their families to be left in limbo until after the election,” Senator Xenophon said.
“The government should bloody well test the numbers now so they can get on with it and give certainty to the industry.”
Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said scrapping the tribunal after the election would jeopardise safety for all road users. He labelled the trucking regulator a “dead duck”.
Mr Turnbull said the legislation had been designed to benefit the TWU by getting “the enterprising family businesses of Australia off the roads.”
Bill Shorten said there was a proven link between low pay rates and poor safety and accused Mr Turnbull of pandering to the “union-hating” Right of his party.
Extracted in full from The Australian.