Thursday, 18 June 2020
At the request of Senators Sterle and Gallacher, I move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) truck drivers across Australia are under pressure because of the squeeze on rates,
(ii) pressure on truck drivers does not exist in isolation; it has real life consequences which can be catastrophic,
(iii) truck driving is Australia's deadliest industry, with around one in three workplace deaths involving a transport worker,
(iv) maintaining safe rates of pay for truck drivers contributes directly to increased road safety for all road users,
(v) longstanding state laws in Australia provide owner-drivers with certainty over their rates,
(vi) during the pandemic, truck drivers have risked their health and lives to continue delivering goods, crossing closed state borders, finding truck stops shut or unable to provide them with hot meals or showers, and
(vii) in response to an opinion article urging fellow owner-drivers not to undercut each other during the COVID-19 pandemic, on 1 June 2020 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) wrote to owner-driver Mr Frank Black threatening criminal charges carrying jail terms; and
(b) further notes that the ACCC has been asked to:
(i) withdraw the letter and accusations levelled at Mr Frank Black therein,
(ii) apologise to Mr Frank Black, and
(iii) confirm that the ACCC will commence a detailed inquiry into destructive competition in the road transport industry that sees those at the top of the supply chain squeezing transport operators, their employees and owner drivers like Frank Black into deadly circumstances.
I thank Senator Sheldon for bringing in this motion on truck drivers. The government recognises the important role played by our road transport sector and the many tens of thousands of Australians that work within it. In particular, owner-drivers are part of the community the coalition strongly represents and advocates for.
In relation to the matters contained in the motion and relevant to those, the Australian Consumer Law includes a vast range of protections for small businesses, including from unfair contract terms, and, as an independent statutory body, the ACCC takes actions to ensure compliance with the law, including the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, which, of course, is independent from the government.
Question agreed to.