Thursday, 2 October 2014
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Employment, Senator Abetz. Today I met Mrs Lystra Tagliaferri, whose husband was killed by an out-of-control truck while he was changing a tyre on the side of the road. The truck driver had been driving for more than 13 hours. Can the minister tell Mrs Tagliaferri what the government plans to do to make sure nothing like this ever happens again?
It would be fair to say that everybody in this place fully accepts Senator Muir's commitment to road safety. He has a name for that. Therefore, it is quite proper that he should raise such a question. Can I say to Senator Muir that regulation of itself does not necessarily translate into road safety. The good news in Australia is that in recent years the number of fatalities in relation to—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Mr President, can we just have some silence from those opposite. The failure of leadership by the Leader of the Opposition in this place is becoming absolutely intolerable.
An opposition senator: Answer the question!
It is very clear that conclusions have been reached around the world that the vast majority of accidents involving trucks are the result of the other driver and not the truck driver. The particular circumstance to which the senator refers is one of those exceptions. The question then is: can we rule out such an event ever occurring again? Regrettably, nobody would ever be in that position. What we have to ask is: what is a sensible way forward in this area? It is noteworthy that when the former government put forward its road safety tribunal in relation to this matter, the regulation impact statement told us that remuneration related to safety has not been investigated.(Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Polling results released today show that 62 per cent of people support the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and 43 per cent of people want it to be stronger. Does the minister have any plans to strengthen the RSRT by giving it extra powers?
(—) (): I trust that that was not a poll undertaken by the Transport Workers Union, because the Transport Workers Union has a real problem when it comes to numbers, both financial and membership. I would like to think that the honourable senator has not allowed himself to be misled in relation to a survey funded by the Transport Workers Union. Can I indicate to the honourable senator some quick facts: 42 per cent fewer serious truck accidents occur now than 10 years ago, 70 per cent of serious truck accidents occur within the first 250 kilometres of the trip, most serious truck accidents occur early in the week, and so the statistics go on. That is why Labor's own regulation impact statement in relation to this road safety tribunal found that it was not based on evidence.(Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Will the government guarantee to retain the RSRT, which is the only body with powers to intervene when transport clients put pressure on truck drivers to drive in unsafe and unfair condition, which puts all road users at risk?
The government went to the last election promising a full review, something that the previous government refused to do because it set up this tribunal as one of its many sops to the unions, and this one was to the Transport Workers Union. There was no evidentiary basis to the setting up of the tribunal. We wanted to find out if there was such an evidentiary basis. As a result we had a review conducted. In due course, we will release that review and the government's response to it. But can I say that we as a government are absolutely committed to road safety. But does that mean that you need a road safety tribunal in circumstances where the evidence does not back it? Let us have a look at what the evidence actually is and make decisions based on evidence not on the whim of the Transport Workers Union. (Time expired)