Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson MP, says legislation that will be introduced to Parliament this month is critical to protecting the livelihoods of self-employed truck drivers under threat from proposed remuneration measures.
Mr Wilson said a Federal Court order that effectively postponed the introduction of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s payment orders was a significant step in the campaign to protect owner-drivers in his electorate.
But he said introducing laws preventing orders setting mandatory remuneration rates from taking effect until January 2017 would provide an important safeguard during a period of uncertainty for the industry.
“Owner-drivers in my electorate have already told me the proposed minimum pay rates will have a direct impact on their ability to run a viable business,” Mr Wilson said.
“I support measures that make our roads safer, but previous analysis has failed to demonstrate any clear link between remuneration and road safety.
“This payment order threatens the viability of a sector that employs more than 40,000 Australians and has the potential to reduce industry competition.
“I am completely opposed to the introduction of this order and will do everything in my power to ensure the future of owner-drivers.”
Katanning-based owner-driver Glenn Kendall, a truck driver of 19 years, said the proposed pay rates would put independent contractors out of business.
Mr Kendall said he offered eastbound interstate jobs, for which supply was high, at lower rates knowing that the westbound trip home would yield a more profitable return due to the stronger demand for freight.
But he said the new payment order would stymie his ability to offer a reduced rate when heading east, making it difficult to secure jobs on the way over to a more profitable market.
“We’ll literally be uncompetitive – we can’t sustain the required base rate when a bigger trucking company can quote whatever rate they want,” he said.
“We just cannot compete with the bigger firms because we have to do it at a base rate and we’re just never going to succeed.”
The owner-driver industry was granted an 11th hour reprieve at the weekend when the Federal Court ordered the delay of the RSRT’s payment order pending the outcome of an appeal.
Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash has since announced legislation will be introduced to the House of Representatives in the week commencing April 18 and, if passed, will prevent mandatory rates from being imposed until January 1, 2017.
A hearing for the industry appeal against the payment order, which is supported by the Government, is likely to be held in the coming weeks.