House debates

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bills

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

7:45 pm

Photo of Andrew HastieAndrew Hastie (Canning, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise today to wholeheartedly support the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill. I stand with the many owner-operator truck drivers around Australia who oppose the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal's harmful and punitive measures that, left unchecked, will destroy many small trucking businesses across this great country. The Turnbull government stand shoulder to shoulder with small business. We stand for free enterprise. We stand for government that does not get in the way of everyday Australians earning an honest living. Government policy should make life easier for Australians, not harder.

Today, once again, we find ourselves under the very long policy shadow of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. After almost three years in government and long after the pink batt fires have burned out, the coalition are still triaging the policy failures of the Labor government. Today, we are abolishing from Australian law the punitive 2016 payments order that came into effect on the fourth day of this month—and we are abolishing it not a moment too soon. The payments order—under the sneaky guise of road safety—sets mandatory minimum pay rates on a per-kilometre and hourly basis for contractor drivers working either in supermarket distribution or long distance operations. The 2016 payments order targets small trucking operators who service regional areas of the country and smaller independent supermarkets.

What does this mean in the here and now for owner-operator truck drivers? It means we have an unnecessary tribunal creating uncertainty and damage to a vital industry in this country. It means that tens of thousands of owner-drivers across Australia will be priced out of the market and forced to close. It means that small independently owned supermarkets such as the many IGAs in Canning will have to pay more for their delivery costs as they absorb the economic costs of owner-operator truckies going out of business. That is right: small businesses in regional areas will have to pay more for the delivery of stock and goods to their shop floors. This is bad policy for owner-operator truckies and it is bad for the regional small businesses that rely upon their services.

Let's consider the human cost for a minute. I spoke last week with an owner-operator in the city of Canning by the name of Glen Morris. Glen lives in Serpentine, which is in the shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale. It is one of the fastest growing local government areas in this country. It is aspirational. Glen is 62 years of age and he recently invested in a truck valued at $400,000. He has operated his own truck business for 30 to 35 years. He has two employees. He drives about 200,000 kilometres per year and spends $15,000 on fuel each month and $1,200 on services for his truck every six weeks. He pays licence and registration fees of $15,000 per year. He spends another $10,000 on tyres every year. His insurance is about $8,000 per year. His accreditation and permits are about $1,500 per year. All of these costs are before he even factors in super or wages for himself. The tribunal would make it more difficult for him to get ahead. It would make it more difficult for him to compete in this market. The government should be helping people like Glen, not harming their economic livelihood.

Why was this road safety remuneration system introduced in 2012? Apparently it was for road safety. But two separate reviews, one by PricewaterhouseCoopers and one by Jaguar Consulting, have debunked this idea. Even Labor's own regulatory analysis completed at the time that the system was introduced acknowledged that insufficient evidence was available linking road safety and remuneration. So why then was it introduced? The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal members were appointed by the now Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, an esteemed member of the union aristocracy in this country. On the tribunal we have former Labor senator and former president of the Transport Workers Union Steve Hutchins—a fellow union comrade. The president of the tribunal, Jennifer Acton, is a former ACTU official—another union member. You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to see union fingerprints and union DNA all over the RSRT policy framework. It is a cash grab at the cost of small business in this country. It is that simple.

The Turnbull government opposes the RSRT for very good reason. It is anti small business, it is anti free enterprise and it compromises the economic security of many Australians. That is why I commend the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill to the House.

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