House debates

Monday, 18 April 2016


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

8:00 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Fowler, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I recall in 2012 being at Uncle Leo's Roadhouse. It is at the crossroads near my electorate when I was the member for Werriwa. When I was there I was talking to a lot of the drivers. One driver was very agitated. He was on his mobile phone; he was making a series of phone calls. He eventually told me that he was going to take a load in his B-double truck back to Brisbane. As I said, this guy was very agitated. He said, 'I am going to get only the price of the fuel that it takes to get there.' He was trying to negotiate getting back to Brisbane. He went back for the price of the fuel in the truck. There was nothing for maintenance and nothing for his labour, just for the fuel in the truck. Those opposite want to talk about the price of labour or the price of a job. I do not know how much fuel goes into a B-double, but that is all he got to take that load to Brisbane.

We ought to understand what this tribunal is about. It was certainly giving some fairness and decency in terms of the rates at which truck drivers are remunerated. It ensured that they were not cutting corners because of the rates they are paid, were not reduced to taking No-Doz to keep themselves awake at night, were not doctoring the log books and were not interrupting the speed regulators on the vehicle. There is a good reason for that. It is worthwhile trying to ensure people do not do that because those in the long-haul road industry are 12 times more likely to die than those in any other industry in this country. It is an unsafe industry. We must ensure that they take every step to have the appropriate and proper practices, because when there is an accident involving a heavy vehicle—and it is very tragic if someone loses their life or is maimed when driving a heavy vehicle—invariably it is going to involve somebody else and that could be any other road user. That was the whole genesis for ensuring safe rates were struck.

As a matter of fact, when safe rates were struck the then member for Hinkler, who had been very much a supporter of that, as I have told the current member for Hinkler on many occasions, said: 'We have had a series of inquiries going back 10 or 11 years—one of which I actually chaired—talking about fair rates and fair reward for working.' Two things were happening: companies where there were employees were taking more overtime than they could reasonably handle and owner-drivers were being set unrealistic limits. That should not be a foreign concept to those opposite.

Do not forget that midway through last year the then small business minister, Bruce Billson, announced to the House, proudly, that they were setting up a code of conduct to protect farmers from being screwed down in terms of their price by Coles and Woolworths. So we were going to protect farmers. It is good that we do because people like Cobby ought to be protected. The truth is that they need an external arrangement to be able to do it. The same applies in road transport. It is conceded that, in terms of their purchasing power particularly in the retailing sector, Coles and Woolworths are capable of screwing down the rates.

You all know the number of trucking businesses that are being wound up. That fellow I saw that day took a truckload of produce back to Brisbane for the price of fuel. I do not think that business is going to go too well. This was designed to be able to set reasonable rates, setting a floor and helping people in that arrangement. To simply come and turn over the decision—and I can understand why it should be delayed—and throw the baby out with the bathwater, to throw out that element that actually lends some fairness and decency to the remuneration system, I think is reprehensible. (Time expired)


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