Grace Collier, 13 April 2016

Hello Mr or Mrs Australian citizen. Are you planning to move house? Be very careful, very careful indeed. According to official advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman, when you go to hire your removalist, through no fault of your own, you could be investigated, prosecuted and fined by the Australian government.

In compliance with the terms of an “enforceable order”, issued by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which came into effect on April 4, a “hirer” is defined as “the party to a road transport contract, other than the contractor driver”. The FWO has confirmed the order “could cover an individual hiring a contractor driver to transport personal household furniture”.

Journeys covered by the order are journeys longer than 500km or more than 200km and across state borders.

A driver covered by the order is a self-employed “contractor driver”, who, if they were not self-employed, would be an employee covered by the Road Transport and Distribution Award 2010. Job classifications listed in this award include furniture removers, assistant loader, courier and driver.

Therefore, if you want to move from, for example, Sydney to Melbourne, or Yamba to Brisbane, providing you hire a removalist who is a contractor driver, and depending on the size of the vehicle your furniture goes in, you must pay a price according to the bewildering schedule of “safe rates” listed in Schedule B of the RSRT order.

Failure to pay the correct rates is a breach of the law, and hirers are liable for their part in breaches.

So how are you supposed to know, when you arrange the move, whether your removalist is a contractor driver covered by the order, or an employee driver not covered by the order? How are you supposed to know the size of truck and get the price right? How are you supposed to avoid breaking the law?

There is no way you can know, of course. It is not humanly possible to know. You could very easily break the law without knowing. All you can do is ask the removalist, rely on their word, and hope they are both truthful and in full understanding of whether they are covered by the order.

If someone thinks breaches of the order are occurring, they can anonymously dob your removalist in for investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman. Businesses dob their competitors in like this all the time, especially when they think their competitor is taking market share and must be undercutting their prices.

If this happens, you will be caught up in a nightmare. Fair Work Ombudsman inspectors can enter premises without warrant or permission. They could turn up at your work, ask to interview you, inspect documents (such as your removalist invoice) and take copies.

The inspectors have the legal power to require you to give your name and home address and provide evidence, for example by tendering of your driver’s licence.

Failure to comply with this can result in your prosecution and fines of up to $5400.

Inspectors could then send to your home a “notice to produce records or documents” and if you don’t comply with the notice, you could be prosecuted and fined up to $10,800.

If you are prosecuted and found to have breached the RSRT order, by not paying the required rates that hirers of contractor drivers are required to pay, the maximum penalty, again, for you, is $10,800.

Your ignorance of the rules will be no excuse, especially now that you have read about this staggering situation in this newspaper.

Welcome to hell, Australia. This is what happens when you elect Labor governments.

They give the unions too much, and everyone suffers the consequences.

Extracted in full from The Australian.