Ewin Hannan, 13 April 2016

Malcolm Turnbull is close to securing Senate support to kill off the controversial Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, as Toll Holdings joined the chorus of transport operators demanding its abolition.

Key crossbench Senator John Madigan said on Wednesday he was “leaning towards” supporting the government’s bill to scrap the tribunal. If he does, the Coalition will have the support of the six crossbenchers needed to get the bill passed.

A seventh crossbencher, Dio Wang, said he was inclined to back abolition if the government met certain conditions.

While Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said on Wednesday he would not support the tribunal’s abolition, Labor frontbencher Brendan O’Connor said the Labor Party was open to delaying new pay rates for truck drivers until 2017.

Toll told The Australian Financial Review on Wednesday it supported the government’s decision to introduce a bill into the House of Representatives next Monday to scrap the tribunal.

“Given the complex operational models and cost structures in the industry, as well as the already significant safety regulation we work with, we don’t believe the RSRT is the best way to improve safety for either big or small operators,” Toll said.

“We support the proposal to abolish the RSRT and to redirect its funding to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. We also encourage governments to work more closely with the industry on a sensible and workable road safety regime.”

COMPROMISE REJECTED

Toll defended a deal reached with Linfox and the Transport Workers Union in March to have the new rates phased in but their introduction delayed. The compromise was rejected by tribunal president Jenny Acton.

“Toll works with hundreds of owner-drivers every year and supports their ongoing viability and participation in the industry,” a company spokesman said on Wednesday.

“We have raised concerns about how the RSRT can operate effectively in the road transport industry since the legislation was first discussed in 2010 but our comments and submissions were not accepted by the [Labor] government of the day, or by the tribunal itself when we participated in good faith in its hearings.

“We now find ourselves in the situation we warned against. We are therefore happy to see the recent parliamentary opposition to the long-distance order.”

Senator Madigan said: “I would like to state that I am leaning towards supporting the move to abolish the RSRT.

​”I am, however, keen to ensure that an adequate plan is put in place to ensure all concerns are met once the RSRT is abolished,” he said.

“I see this as an opportunity to ensure everyone gets a fair go. I will continue to engage with the industry this week and appreciate all comments on this issue.”

PROVIDE CERTAINTY

NatRoad chief executive officer Warren Clark said abolishing the tribunal would provide certainty for the thousands of owner-drivers and small and medium transport businesses currently forced to charge a higher fee for their services under the order

“There are owner-drivers and small and medium transport businesses losing work thanks to the order, and in some cases the order is already affecting the viability of their businesses,” Mr Clark said.

“Mum and dad businesses are being impacted by this measure that forces them to charge a higher rate, putting families under enormous pressure as they try to comply with the order and risk being fined for failing to do so.”

Extracted in full from the Australian Financial Review.

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