House debates

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bills

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

7:55 pm

Photo of Karen McNamaraKaren McNamara (Dobell, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the 62,000 owner-drivers impacted by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal's payment order. In providing my support to owner-drivers, I acknowledge the approximately 1,700 Dobell based owner-drivers who face financial ruin due to this heartless payment order. To the owner-drivers of Australia, this government stands with you in its resolve to see not only this payment order delayed but also for the repeal of the road safety remuneration system.

Since it commenced operation, the RSRT has made two enforceable orders. The second order is the controversial Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016. No-one would ever dispute that road safety is vitally important, but what is disputed is the correlation between higher remuneration and safety. With regard to the safety argument put forward as justification for this order, NatRoad recently commented:

The TWU cites safety as a requirement for this order as they quote the number of deaths on the road as proof. If you were to delve into the statistics I guarantee more than 90% of the crashes they think will stop after RSRT begins, involve drivers not caught under the order, eg. The infamous Mona Vale fuel tanker crash would not have come under the order for two reasons, 1. Employed driver and 2. Fuel transport.

NatRoad further stated:

To an owner driver it's more than a job it's a profession that is of their highest priority to carry out safely.

Despite Labor identifying from their own regulatory analysis that the regulatory costs associated with their proposed road safety remuneration system outweighed any benefits and concluding there was no clear demonstrated link between remuneration and safety, they still went ahead and introduced the road safety remuneration system.

Already we are witnessing the impact of this order on small business operators around Australia, including in my electorate of Dobell. Don Robb, an owner-operator, contacted me about this order. Not only is Don concerned about his own business, he is also extremely concerned for his son. Like many families involved in the trucking industry, sons and daughters of owner-operators follow their parents' career. Don's son has a near-new $350,000 Kenworth and three near-new road train trailers, all on finance. He has had his business for nearly 10 years. He can be away from home for up to eight weeks at a time. Owner-drivers, as it stands, cannot do part-loads and have to cart what the RSRT calculates is the price; if they do not, there can be heavy penalties.

If this order goes ahead, Don's son, along with thousands of other owner-drivers, will be bankrupt. Because of this, many of them are now suffering depression and are suicidal. While Don is concerned about the impact of this order on his own livelihood, he is concerned about his children and their families—just as many others carry that additional burden of concern about their children and families. Don was so incensed with the heartlessness of this order he contacted the Leader of the Opposition directly. I share with the House a heartfelt plea of a father concerned for his son, a plea no doubt shared by all concerned families of Australian owner-drivers impacted by this order:

My son is one-truck operator who road trains to and from Perth to the Eastern states—you are putting him out of business, all he wants to do is go to work, feed his family, pay his taxes and do the right thing, his mental health was perfect until this owner drivers order came into effect.

I am very concerned about his well fair. I'm not sure whether he is suicidal or homicidal, if anything happens to him I will hold you personally responsible. Please have another look—Don Robb.

Yvonne and James Taylor operate Taylor Transport. Yvonne has grown up in and around the transport industry as the daughter of and now the wife of an interstate truck driver. The Taylors have successfully operated their own transport business for almost 10 years. Yvonne is very aware of how the industry operates and understands firsthand how hard these men and women work, the long hours they put in and the extensive time away from their families—the families who fiercely support them to earn a living, doing a job they enjoy and want to do with professional integrity.

The Taylors, like many others in this industry, are now—and I quote Yvonne—facing 'what has become the fight of our lives'. Yvonne shared with me this quote from a fellow transport operator: 'This order drives a dagger through the heart of Australia on a scale never seen before.' In Yvonne's words: 'That pretty much sums it up in a nutshell, as does the often seen bumper sticker "Without trucks Australia stops". All we want to do is keep Australia moving.'

The Robbs and the Taylors are everyday hardworking Australians who represent the backbone of this country. They ask for nothing but the opportunity to go about their business and provide for their families. Already there are documented cases of drivers being denied work by the larger logistic companies. This is a mess created by Bill Shorten and this is a mess that we want to fix. I commend this bill to the House. (Time expired)

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