Monday, 18 April 2016
Road Safety Remuneration Amendment (Protecting Owner Drivers) Bill 2016; Consideration in Detail
Those opposite would have us believe that the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal is about road safety. I have been a member of the CFA and sat at three o'clock in the morning with a lady who had been killed in a fatality in a car there and a truck rolled over there. I have been a truck driver myself and I know a little bit about these things. But this is not really about road safety. Those opposite use that name because it adds weight to their argument but this is about the interference of trade between private operators that they were not trying to broaden across to the general trucking industry.
We have a log book system that has been very effective. We have policing. We have mass management to encourage maintenance. There are a number of things that take place within the transport industry to look at the safety of the trucks, to look at the hours that truck drivers can drive and to look at general consensus that we can keep the roads as safe as they possibly can be. It needs to be said that the very nature of trucking, where you are spending 40 hours a week on the road, does expose you to greater chances of accidents because you are on the road a greater amount of time than the average person. But I think trucks have largely become safer than they have ever been with the brake systems that are now on our B-doubles. Considering some of the trucks when I was young to what is there now, you can pull them up a bit quicker.
What is this about? This is not about, unfortunately, road safety; this has been all about ensuring that the competitive edge of the trucking industry, which has been the owner-driver, which has been the person that mortgages their house, that wants to move from being a worker to being a small business person, is wiped out of the industry. That person has said to themselves, 'I have been truck driver. Now what about if I could become an owner truck driver? What about if I took the financial risk to go and buy a truck and then work for myself?' We should at every point in the Australian economy be removing barriers for people who want to have personal endeavour, who seek to run a small business, and who seek to be self-employed.
What this has done is actually try to disadvantage them. The point that is lost in this whole debate is there has become one rule for the owner-driver and another rule for the company, so much so that it interferes in the very terms of trade. So an owner-driver has to set a rate that is over and above what a company can set—so this is not about equity—to the level that an owner-driver has to charge $1:50 a litre for fuel whereas the company charges the standard rate which is about $1:05 in my town and so it has become disproportionate, as a classic example of regulation trying to interfere with the very basis of the terms of trade.
I have had truck drivers say to me that they have been driving a truck for 15 years and they never thought when they heard about this that this would actually happen. 'Surely common sense would prevail,' they said. But they have now had to park their trucks. They do not how they are going to make repayments on their trucks. They do not know how they are going to make repayments on their houses. And as a result of the decision made by the Gillard government, and now hopefully being reversed in this place, we are putting people, the Australian government is putting people who have borrowed money for a truck and who have mortgaged their house out of work. Think about that for a moment. What a diabolical situation, where the Australian government can put a person who has personal endeavour at risk of losing their house. For what reason? For wanting to drive a truck and be self-employed. That is a disgrace.
I want to say to the truck drivers: we are doing the right thing, not by this bill but by the previous bill, which was about getting rid of it. Because, if you are going to buy a truck you need confidence to invest. This week the local Kenworth dealer in my town had three orders cancelled on Monday morning as a result of this legislation. When the Gillard government's policy is doing things like that—where it is shutting down people investing in buying trucks and putting people out of their jobs—then it shows that those opposite have not learnt at thing. Nothing in the debate here has talked about how they are going to ensure small business people succeed. If they want to talk about safety, then they should talk about logbooks, they should talk about road conditions, they should talk about mass management, and they should talk to people such as me, who have stood behind and beside trucks at fatality scenes.