Rosie Lewis & Joe Kelly, 10 April 2016

Malcolm Turnbull has pledged to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal if his government wins the upcoming election.

The Coalition has also announced funding from the Road Safety Remuneration System would be redirected to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, which the Prime Minister said was the body that can “actually deliver real and tangible road safety outcomes in the trucking industry”.

“The Turnbull government is taking action to support truck owner-drivers across Australia who are unfairly disadvantaged by the destructive Road Safety Remuneration System Payment Order, which came into effect on 7 April 2016,” Mr Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash said in a statement.

“Bill Shorten set up the Road Safety Remuneration System solely to advantage the Transport Workers Union.

“The union claims that if you pay someone more money then they will drive more safely. This is not based on evidence or common sense. The RSR System is predicated on this flawed claim and it puts tens of thousands of owner-drivers across Australia at risk of being driven out of business.”

The government said there was “no evidence” the RSRS had achieved “any safety outcomes” during its four years of operation and would not achieve any in the future.

Labor slammed the Turnbull government for “trashing” the independent tribunal, claiming the move to scrap it was “based upon their opposition to establishing safe rates for the transport industry”.

“This decision is extraordinary and extremely dangerous given the body of evidence that links pay and safety on our roads,” the opposition’s employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said.

“The Turnbull Liberal government has gone from seeking to delay the decision by legislation to now recklessly trying to kill off the tribunal, simply because Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t like its decision.”

Mr O’Connor said the government should convene a meeting with all affected parties – employers, workers, unions, and owner-operators to “reconcile where possible outstanding differences”.

“Abolishing the independent tribunal will set a deeply disturbing precedent and clearly shows the Abbott-Turnbull government has no respect for the concept of an independent umpire,” he said.

“It also raises very serious questions about future decisions of government. If they are willing to abolish a tribunal because they don’t like a decision, what would stop the Turnbull government intervening to defer the increase in the national minimum wage, or override a decision of the Fair Work Commission on penalty rates?”

The government’s statement said the states would be consulted to determine how funding for the NHVR can be used to “strengthen safety measures and deliver real results”.

“The bill the government will be introducing to parliament when it resumes on 18 April, if passed, will suspend the operation of the Order and provide the trucking industry with certainty, until such time as we take legislation to a new parliament to abolish the RSRS,” Mr Turnbull and Senator Cash said.

Furious self-employed truck drivers are planning a protest convoy to take their fight against the tribunal to federal parliament, warning new minimum rates of pay will drive them out of business.

The protest is planned to ­coincide with the resumption of parliament in a week’s time. It is being fuelled by anger among thousands of owner-drivers across the country who hope to pressure MPs into overturning the tribunal’s order mandating the new pay regime.

The government already has support of five of the six crossbench senators it needs to freeze the pay rates. The remaining three independents are expected to decide on a position soon.

Owner-driver truckies said last week they faced ruin after the Federal Court handed the TWU a legal victory by giving the green light to a new pay regime.

The pay rates, promoted by unionists as being needed to make roads safer, came into force at 4.15pm on Thursday, prompting independent senator Glenn Lazarus to warn the decision would trigger convoy protests across the nation.

Owner-drivers say the mandatory pay rates will price them out of the market, and Nat­ionals MPs have already been planning to introduce legislation to abolish the RSRT.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said while the new pay regime fell outside the scope of his responsibilities, the tribunal’s order would lead to price increases and would be likely to have an adverse effect on competition in the sector.

Extracted in full from The Australian.

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