House debates

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Statements by Members

Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal

1:38 pm

Photo of Tim WattsTim Watts (Gellibrand, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Every year an average of 330 Australians are killed from heavy vehicle accidents in Australia. This fact hits particularly hard in my electorate of Gellibrand where our proud manufacturing history and our proximity to Melbourne's docks results in very large volumes of truck traffic.

We have seen at least three serious injuries from track accidents affecting my electorate or residents of my electorate this year. In recent years we have even seen truck fatalities occur on the busy traffic corner in front of my new electorate office, reminding me every day of the human costs that these accidents can have.

Often the root cause of these accidents relates to the workplace conditions imposed on truck drivers. Unreasonable demands placed on our truck drivers mean that they must perform their work even when they are tired, unwell or forced to drive in an unsafe manner. The 2012 Safe Rate survey found that almost one in three of our truck drivers felt pressured to speed, to break the law, just to perform their job.

The previous Labor government was determined to attack the root causes underlying these truck accidents. It established the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and gave it the power to set minimum rates of pay in related conditions to eliminate the employer pressure felt by drivers, but this independent tribunal is currently under threat from the Abbott government. The assistant to the transport minister is sitting on a review of the tribunal's effectiveness and has recently commented:

… we have always been very uncomfortable with this regulator.

The Abbott government should leave the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal alone and ensure that it continues to make our streets safer. Australians deserve better than a government playing politics with such a serious safety issue.