House debates

Thursday, 4 August 2022


Road Safety

1:14 pm

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Deputy Speaker Chesters, I'll begin by commending you on the admirable balancing of your role as representative for the people of Bendigo with your amazing parenting craft. I think it was clear to the House this morning that I have much to learn from your example!

I rise to speak on the very important matter of safety in the road transport industry. Road transport is Australia's deadliest industry. We see and hear the tragic stories all too often. Back in 2008, the National Transport Commission found that low rates of pay for heavy vehicle drivers were linked to dangerous road safety outcomes for those drivers, the workers across the industry, and the community more broadly. In response, the then Labor government established the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal to secure minimum pay rates for these workers and lift safety standards across the industry. However, in 2016, the then coalition government abolished the tribunal entirely. Tragically, in the six years since, over 1,000 people have lost their lives in truck crashes across the country, including 259 truck drivers.

In relevance to my electorate of Hawke, the folks of Hawke have been severely impacted by these tragic losses. Those opposite spent their decade in government letting Australian workers down across all industries. We won't waste a single moment. We won't waste the opportunity to stand up for these workers and ensure that all workplaces across Australia are safe for these workers.

Roads are the workplace of so many Australians, particularly those in Hawke. That's why I'm absolutely committed to supporting the Transport Workers Union's struggle for safe rates and better conditions for every transport worker in this country. Last week I met with a delegation from the TWU, including TWU Victoria/Tasmania Branch Secretary Mike McNess and Assistant Secretary Mem Suleyman, to discuss their campaign, and I was extremely proud to sign on to the safe rate pledge.

Our road transport workers are the backbone of our nation's supply chains. We found that during COVID. Supporting our transport industry by paying our truck drivers fairly means safer and more secure work conditions for those workers and safer roads for our community. Pressure on our nation's truck drivers has real-life consequences, and those consequences, as we know, can be disastrous. The industry is marked by alarming rates of death, injury and chronic health conditions, as well as wage theft and pressure upon workers to work under dangerous conditions.

Road transport workers, alongside all other workers, deserve the right to go home to their families at the end of the day. That is why it is so important that our government works with industry and its members to establish a clear path to safer roads. Safe rates are the key to achieving that. We need to look vertically to the wealthy clients who are squeezing supply chains from the top. The demand for low-cost transport contracts forces operators to slash rates to remain competitive, compromising the safe working conditions of those Australians who keep our nation's supply chains in operation.

We need to work alongside the Transport Workers Union to facilitate constructive collaboration between industry, clients and the workforce. We need to empower the Fair Work Commission to set minimum rates and standards for all workers engaged in employee-like work, including transport workers. This protects workers and employers alike and ensures our roads and communities are safer.

I commend Minister Tony Burke for his dedicated work on these matters. Transport workers should not be pressured to work harder, longer and faster just to make ends meet. They keep our country and our community moving. No transport worker should struggle to put food on the table or a roof over their family's heads. Every worker in Australia deserves a safe workplace, and the workplace that is Australia's roads will not be safe for our transport workers, or our communities, until the fight for safe rates succeeds.

Question agreed to.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 13 : 19