The transport industry has welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s promise to abolish the Road Safety and Remuneration Tribunal if the Coalition is re-elected at this year’s federal election.
It comes amid fears tens of thousands of small business owners could lose their homes if controversial trucking payment regulations mandated by the tribunal go ahead.
The Prime Minister made the announcement while speaking at a doorstop interview with Employment Minister Michaela Cash on the weekend.
“This tribunal, established by the Labor Party, established by Bill Shorten, has produced an order which will drive owner-drivers out of business,” Turnbull said.
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“It is not a tribunal that does anything effective to do with safety, it undermines owner-operators, it undermines small business, it undermines family businesses.
“Two reports have investigated it and each of them has recommended that it be abolished. We’re going to carry that out, it will be abolished if the Turnbull government is re-elected at the election this year.”
Last week, the full court of the Federal Court overturned a stay on the new pay rates for owner-drivers, which the industry says will make smaller operators unable to compete with larger companies.
This is because the new minimum pay rates do not apply to big businesses.
The new rates are now in effect, with the Turnbull government left with no choice but to push forward new legislation delaying the pay rates until 2017, pending Senate approval.
Tribunal’s pay order having a “devastating impact” on small business owners
Mathew Munro, executive director of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, told SmartCompany he welcomes Turnbull’s announcement.
“We certainly support the government announcement over the weekend that they’d abolish the tribunal if re-elected,” Munro says.
“That’s a stronger commitment than we had at the last election [where the Coalition promised a review]. There have now been two independent reviews of the tribunal which have said everything industry has been saying to the government about this tribunal … there is no strong link between remuneration and safety.”
Munro says while he would like to see the Road Safety and Remuneration Tribunal go, he thinks such a thing is unlikely to pass the current Senate.
However, Munro is hopeful crossbench senators will band together to at least vote for the Government’s proposed law to push back the new pay rates until 2017.
“Owner drivers have now come out and told their story en masse,” he says.
“We’ve seen a tribunal act in a way that makes more owner drivers feel alienated, that it’s not listening to them. That has caused some crossbenchers to reconsider their position on this tribunal, which is why I think we have support for at least a delay.”
At the end of the day, though, Munro says owner-drivers just want politicians to do something, and do it soon.
“This bill, now it’s in place, is having a devastating impact on businesses and something needs to be done immediately.”