Turnbull government to abolish Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal if re-elected

“It undermines owner operators, it undermines small-business, it undermines family businesses,”: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photo: Janie BarrettA re-elected Turnbull government will abolish the tribunal that sets pay rates for truck drivers because, the prime minister says, there is no link between road safety and remuneration.

The decision follows two reviews of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal [RSRT], which was introduced by the Gillard government in 2012, and both recommended the system be abolished.

The decision to scrap the RSRT is another sign the government is looking to fight Labor in the 2016 election campaign over workplace policy and industrial lawlessness, with a double dissolution election in prospect if the senate votes against re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).

PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ review said the RSRT should be reformed and that the “abolition of the system would result in significant net benefit to the economy and community at large”.

The federal government and truck owner-drivers argue a recent pay order by the RSRT threatens the livelihood of small operators by pricing them out of the market and enforcing much higher rates of pay.

And Mr Turnbull has promised the government will seek to pass legislation to block that pay order when parliament resumes and after it has dealt with a bill to re-establish ABCC.

But Labor and the Transport Workers Union argue higher rates of pay are essential to improving safety for truck drivers by reducing deadline pressure to drive long stretches without a rest.

Mr Turnbull said on Sunday the RSRT pay order would “drive owner drivers out of business. It will make them uncompetitive with other larger businesses. It is designed entirely and was designed entirely by Bill Shorten when he was in government to advantage the Transport Workers Union”.

“We will, if re-elected, abolish the RSRT. It is not a tribunal that does anything effective to do with safety, it undermines owner operators, it undermines small-business, it undermines family businesses.

The RSRT pay order had been due to come into effect on April 4, and the federal government had intervened to support an application in the Federal Court to stop that pay order coming into effect until January 1, 2017.

But the court dismissed the application, meaning legislation is necessary to stop the pay order and – according to the government – protect the livelihoods of thousands of truck owner-drivers.

Five crossbench senators – Dio Wang, Nick Xenophon, David Leyonhjlem, Bob Day and most recently Glenn Lazarus – have indicated they could back legislation, meaning only one more vote is needed.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott’s industrial relations policy, heading into the 2013 election, promised an “urgent” review of the RSRT and the issue has flared in recent weeks following the pay order by the tribunal.

Labor industrial relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said that usually goverrnments respected the decision of an independent tribunal, and that “in exceptional circumstances a government might intervene in the matter and make a submission before the tribunal determines the outcome”.

“The Turnbull Liberal government has gone from seeking to delay the decision by legislation to now recklessly trying to kill off the tribunal, simply because Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t like its decision.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.