11 February 2016


It has now been 670 days since the Abbott-Turnbull government was handed its review of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, and we have still not seen the findings. Meanwhile a further review was undertaken and delivered to the Minister for Employment, Senator Michaelia Cash. Combined, the government has wasted over $185,000 of taxpayers' money, and we have not even seen the findings of either report. This government has a track record of not being transparent or accountable to the Australian people.

In mid-2014 the former Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Jamie Briggs, told a conference of trucking employers that the coalition had 'always been very uncomfortable with this regulator'. He hinted at what the government planned to do. He said:

I think that you'll be comfortable with the approach that the Australian Government will take on this tribunal.

The Deputy Prime Minister last year told the House:

We do not have any plans to get rid of it . Even if we did, we would not get it through the parliament. So, the reality is that the organisation will continue to do its job.

The ongoing mishandling of the tribunal by this government is only causing uncertainty and a lack of engagement by industry. But we know exactly what this government wants to do with the tribunal: abolish it.

Even the Productivity Commission inquiry into workplace relations highlighted the ongoing uncertainty. The tribunal was evaluated in 2014, but the Australian government has not announced its response to the review, with one central issue being the continued existence of the tribunal. Despite the government's best efforts to diminish the important role of the tribunal, 2015 was a big year for it. The tribunal handed down a ruling late last year that will ensure long-distance drivers and those working in retail are paid the full cost of their work, easing pressure on an industry with the highest rate of work related fatalities. As the National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, Tony Sheldon, said:

This is a huge victory in our fight to stop the carnage on our roads. It is an important step towards addressing the pressures on drivers that result in an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries …
The ruling sets minimum rates that secure payment for time spent waiting and queuing at depots and distribution centres. It states that drivers must be paid for loading and unloading time and for the time it takes to clean, inspect, service and repair the trucks and trailers. The industry now has a binding, legally-enforceable decision that makes those at the top of the supply chain accountable for the practices throughout the supply chain. This is not some abstract theory. This affects people's lives.

I also want to point out that the safe rates campaign is not limited to Australia, which is why the Transport Workers Union has been taking safe rates global. Last year the International Labour Organization reaffirmed the global fight for safe rates. It is positive to see the safe rates campaign being embraced by the Korean Public Service and Transport Workers' Union, and I look forward to continuing the fight for many years to come for such rights to be extended in Korea.