Monday, 18 April 2016
Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
When the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal bill was introduced into parliament I said in February 2012:
If I could find a way to legislate to eliminate tragedies on the road, and the sufferings of families and the loss of livelihoods associated with road accidents, I would support it enthusiastically.
The reality is though the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal could make no contribution to safety by simply raising pay. If you really believe that higher pay is going to eliminate the accidents then why not put up the price of coal so there would be fewer accidents in the coal industry? There are a lot of people dying in farm accidents. If we legislate to double the price of wheat, would we expect that that would somehow reduce the toll? The reality is there is no connection.
Of course if a driver is under pressure—whether that comes from troubles in the home, financial difficulties, his worries about his timetable or his concentration on the football or the music on his radio—he is not going to be as safe as somebody else who is paying attention to the road and to the wheel. There is a link between stress and safety, but you cannot fix that simply by paying higher rates. Indeed, the RSRT itself has added to the stress of so many drivers over recent weeks because it has chosen to pay some drivers more than others. This is not a way to resolve the issue. Indeed, the then government's own regulatory impact statement for the bill said, on page 4:
Speed and fatigue are often identified as the primary cause for a crash but it is a much harder task to prove that drivers were speeding because of the manner or quantum of their remuneration.
It went on to say:
… data at this point in time is limited and being definitive around the causal link between rates and safety is difficult.
There was never any causal link established between pay rates and safety.
Indeed, a report by the New South Wales RTA into road traffic accidents found that heavy vehicle drivers were at fault for only 31 per cent of the fatal crashes involving a heavy vehicle—only 31 per cent. What are we going to do to the pay of the people who are at fault in the other 69 per cent of accidents? A clear link has just never been established.
The legislation was introduced by the then Minister for Infrastructure and Transport because he had responsibility for road safety. But, within two weeks, Labor introduced 64 amendments to their own legislation, amendments that they had not consulted with the industry on or informed the then opposition of until a few hours beforehand. By the time we got to that stage, it was the minister for workplace relations, the current Leader of the Opposition, who was in fact running the bill. This exposed, absolutely, that even Labor did not believe that remuneration had anything to do with safety. It was all about a pay-off to the Transport Workers Union, a union that had donated generously to the Labor funds, a part-owner of the ALP with the rest of the trade union movement. Some of the members of the Labor Party actually depended on the Transport Workers Union for their own endorsement.
The reality was that this was a pay-off to their union mates. It is very similar to what they did for the MUA with the maritime legislation—another piece of legislation that has proved to be disgracefully flawed and failed to do anything to maintain jobs in the Australian shipping industry. I am pleased that the House has passed the bill to repeal the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal. We now need to also proceed to pass the legislation to get rid of the maritime legislation that Labor passed.
Clearly, while tragedies on the road are very damaging to the Australian economy, they are very, very damaging to our social life and to the families of those involved in them. We need to look realistically at what causes traffic accidents and do what we can to resolve them. It needs to be remembered that the road toll for truck drivers has been in steady decline now, and it was in steady decline before the RSRT was invented. The RSRT has made no contribution to safety. This House must at least delay its current disastrous ruling. In reality, the RSRT serves no useful purpose. There are plenty of other laws about safety in Australia. We do not need the RSRT, and it should be abolished.