House debates

Monday, 18 April 2016

Bills

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

8:25 pm

Photo of John CobbJohn Cobb (Calare, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

The most amazing thing about this debate—if I can call it that—is the fact that it took so long for the media to pick up on what was really happening here even after we all realised what the tribunal had done. There is something that I do not hear any of the Labor speakers, including the previous speaker, talking about. If this is about safety, which it is not, or if this is about looking after drivers on the road, which it is not, why does it only apply to one section of the trucking industry? None of them mention that.

They talk about road safety. We are all into road safety. Of course we are—we all drive on the damn roads. But this is not about safety; this is about unionism—a pay-off to the unions. For what? Let's not go into that. But it is a pay-off for unions against what particular section of the trucking industry? The section of those who do not join unions: the drivers who own their own rig, as has been mentioned, by putting their house under a mortgage or whatever reason. There is nothing I see that I love more in the world than a young couple going into their own business, whatever it might be, be it an electrician or an owner-driver truck operator. But this is actually not just an attack on owner-operators who are not members of unions; it is an attack on the self-employed.

The Central West of New South Wales is a big trucking area, but it amazed me how long it took for the media to get the fact that only one section of one of Australia's biggest industries, with a huge number of people involved in it, was being attacked, and that was those people who own their own truck and drive it. It is so crazy that, if I own three trucks and pay two people to drive two of them and drive one myself, the other two trucks are not affected by the decision of the road safety tribunal. It is only the one I drive myself.

And there is no evidence to show that owner-drivers have any worse record than anyone else. When you stop and think about it, how ludicrous is it to suggest that the person who owns his own truck—it is his livelihood, he services it, he repairs it and he makes sure it meets the specifications—would want to trash that truck more or risk it more than someone, quite possibly just as good a driver, who is paid to drive their truck? It is ludicrous, and there is no evidence to suggest that. In fact, you do wonder if it is actually constitutional to pick out one section of industry like the TWU and Bill Shorten did.

I found that we had to get out in the media and explain that this is just an attack on one section of people who do not join unions. When I went out, Whites Stock Transport went with me into the media, and Cassie White made an incredible impact in the Central West by pointing out something very relevant to this. She said, 'Our company is actually big enough that we will not be too affected by this, but all the subbies we use, who come take from us and bring stuff to us, are affected, because they are nearly all owner-operators.' She said, 'What this will do is simply make the big guys bigger and the small guys smaller or not exist at all.' As somebody pointed out, what a lovely thing to do to someone who has mortgaged their home so they can buy a truck and so that they and their wife or partner could go into business together.

I have seen things come before this House before, but I have never seen anything as brazen as Bill Shorten, the now opposition leader, and the TWU getting together to put into being the road safety tribunal with people who are obviously not terribly sympathetic to owner-drivers to simply make their lives hell and put them out of business.

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