Monday, 18 April 2016
Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
I speak in relation to the Road Safety Remuneration Repeal Bill 2016, and record my opposition to it.
Prior to the last redistribution in Queensland, I had the privilege of representing the Lockyer Valley. On numerous occasions I attended the 'Lights on the Hill' memorial service—a day when truck drivers and their families would attend to remember those who were killed in the last year. Sadly, their names were on the memorial. Each year, more people were added. Truck driving is a dangerous business, and it is a risk for the families. They do not know when—and if, in fact—their loved one will come home.
The truck driving industry is critical to our farming sector, getting produce to the markets and to the ports—to Rocklea in South-East Queensland. And it is not just that but also delivering household goods—furniture and clothing. In a seat like mine of Blair, where there are major highways—the Ipswich Motorway, the Brisbane Valley Highway and the Cunningham and Warrego highways—roads are king.
But for those opposite to deny the link between pay and road safety is simply to fly in the face of the best evidence. We saw the report delivered by the former member for Flynn, the Hon. Paul Neville. That House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts report in 2000, titled Beyond the midnight oil: managing fatigue in the transport industry, made it clear that there was a link. In addition to that we also saw the Quinlan inquiry in 2001 and the Mutual Responsibility for Road Safety case in 2006. We also saw the National Transport Commission Review report in 2008, the Safe Rates Advisory Group report in 2010 and the PricewaterhouseCoopers report quoted by so many people in this place. For those opposite to deny all that is simply a nonsense.
It is easy to feel sympathy for those who work in this sector, because their livelihoods are threatened and pay is very low. It is hard to put food on the table for your families and to have your jobs threatened, and of course it seems quite harsh in many ways, but the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal was a good idea and in my view should not be abolished. It was and is as it currently stands about making road safety remuneration orders and conducting research into pay conditions and related matters that affect safety in the road transport industry.
Those opposite have indicated that they may take some of the functions of the RSRT and put it with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator. I would be very surprised indeed if we saw that jurisdiction extending to pay orders. Our side of the chamber and indeed the TWU have also sought compromise in relation to this matter. Those opposite have in fact got rid of a tribunal which is about the linkages between pay and conditions and road safety. Sadly, they have made our roads and highways across this country less safe for all Australians. In the last month 25 people have died on our roads as a result of heavy vehicle accidents. Fatality rates in the trucking industry are 12 times the national average, and that must stop, but what is so disturbing about what the government has done is that they are willing to abolish a tribunal just because they do not like the decision. What would stop the Abbott-Turnbull government intervening to defer increases in national minimum wages or overriding decisions of the Fair Work Commission simply because they do not like decisions in relation to penalty rates?
This is a very bad precedent they have set today and clearly is an ideological attack on workers and fair pay and conditions in the country. It is typical of what those opposite have done. This is a Prime Minister who stands for nothing other than being Prime Minister. This is about political expediency. Did they do anything about this two years ago when the road safety remuneration order which set minimum pay rates for owner-drivers was proclaimed by the tribunal? They did nothing at all. This was done on the eve of an election simply to raise stakes, inflame passions and pursue a political agenda against workers. This is about the election that is going to take place on 2 July. It is not about road safety, it is not about pay and conditions and it is not about the economy. It is about political expediency from a government that has run out of ideas, exists for itself, does not exist for the benefit of working people in this country and exists only to pursue the political ambitions of the Prime Minister who grabbed power from the member for Warringah.