House debates

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bills

Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail

7:40 pm

Photo of Warren SnowdonWarren Snowdon (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for External Territories) Share this | Hansard source

The seat of Lingiari is unique in this place in the sense that the trucking industry is the lifeblood of the community. Whether you are talking about live cattle exports, the mining industry, servicing Aboriginal communities or the tourism industry, without the trucking industry the place would grind to a dead halt. I have spoken about the trucking industry in the Northern Territory and across Australia previously in this place and I have indicated very strongly my support for the work they do—not only those people who are employees of major trucking companies but also the owner-drivers. Indeed, in a debate in this place in 2006 I read from a Transport Workers Union submission to an inquiry. In that submission they said:

Owner-drivers are single vehicle operations the vast majority of which perform work exclusively for a single transport operator (principal contractor). Owner-drivers are highly dependent upon those with whom they contract.

They said that owner-drivers are price-takers in the marketplace and that:

This dependence leads to inequality of bargaining power and the associated potential for exploitation.

That exploitation of owner drivers in the transport industry, of course, results in industrial instability, higher than average rates of bankruptcy and road transport accidents, and in the debate today we have heard examples that highlight the importance of understanding the relationship between people who are pressured as owner-drivers and road accidents.

But we do not oppose this particular bill, because this is what the Transport Workers Union and others have been seeking to do: to delay the implementation of this order to allow people to discuss the significant number of issues that need to be talked about. That is what an informed leader would have done. Instead of rushing to judgement about the tribunal itself and abolishing it, he would have come into this place and said, 'Let's have a discussion about how we can defer the implementation of the order and sit down with all the participants in the trucking industry.' The owner-drivers, the TWU, the major trucking companies, ACCI, the Road Transport Association—you name it—could have sat down to discuss issues such as backloads, split loads, client accountability to ensure all employers are paid enough to pay their drivers, whether an employee or owner-driver, a rise and fall formula to deal with fluctuations in the fuel price, and maximum 30-day payments for all transport operators. These are very important things that need to be discussed, and it is very clear that the owner-drivers who are in the industry need to be guaranteed an opportunity to have their views properly expressed and heard in a way that delivers a result for them. I am not sure that the abolition of the tribunal will, by itself, deliver a result of them. It is a very hasty political decision.

We have been brought back to this place because we were told there were very important pieces of legislation to be discussed in the other place. We heard the Governor-General's speech this morning. It did not address this particular issue, yet now we find ourselves in this place discussing the Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016 and the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016 and having the debate gagged. What a travesty! The trucking industry of the Northern Territory and the people of the Northern Territory want to know what I think about this, but I have been told by the government that my right to speak has been gagged and that I cannot participate in the substantive debate. I have to use the ruse of this particular part of proceedings to be able to make a small contribution.

Let's be very, very clear: the backbone of the Northern Territory economy is very much in the hands of the trucking industry. Those people involved are long haul drivers, who are involved in much of the work that happens in the Northern Territory transporting cattle from properties in the Northern Territory to markets in the south and transporting cattle to the wharf at Darwin for live cattle export. All of the food that comes to the Northern Territory from Adelaide to Darwin is on long haul transport. Fuel that comes across to the Northern Territory is brought on long haul transport. These are very, very important things. I express my strong support for the trucking industry. (Time expired)

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