The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association has welcomed an announcement by Federal Minister for Employment Senator Michaela Cash that the Coalition Government will introduce legislation in the week commencing April 18 to prevent mandatory minimum rates for owner drivers taking effect before 1 January 2017.
ALRTA National President Kevin Keenan said a legislative solution would provide all parties with certainty until the Federal Court challenges and Government consultation processes can be completed.
“Safety is our number one issue and everyone deserves to be paid fairly, but the 2016 Road Safety Remuneration Order is anti-competitive will just destroy small family businesses. There is no proven link between pay and safety and the very existence of the Tribunal takes the focus off initiatives that do have a proven influence on safety such as chain of responsibility laws, vehicle standards and infrastructure improvements,” said Mr Keenan.
“However, we must also acknowledge that there are a range of views in the transport industry and across the political spectrum.”
“It is now up to the courts to determine whether or not the 2016 Order has been correctly made – but no one knows how long that might take. At the same time, the Government is consulting with stakeholders on options for future legislative reform. Again, we do not know how long it will take to reach agreement or exactly when the Federal election will be upon us.”
“In the meantime rural transport operators need some certainty so they can get on with the job of moving Australia’s agricultural produce to our ports and markets.”
“Without the certainty of a legislative delay, owner drivers will suffer because hirers just won’t want the risk of an adverse court finding or election result that puts them in the firing line. This will affect the entire supply chain, service providers to the transport industry and regional communities.”
“Given all of the circumstances, Senator Cash’s proposal for a legislative delay is sensible and pragmatic.”
“I call on Federal Parliamentarians of all persuasions to support the delay bill, keeping in mind that the Parliament will still have the opportunity to decide on the future of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal at a later date,” said Mr Keenan.
Cattle Council calls for quick action
Cattle Council of Australia said the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s support for the existing order last Friday had left the livestock industry hanging, as it did not does not appear to consider how payments should apply to mixed or part loads, or round trips where the truck may travel empty.
Small owner-operators fear backloads and part loads will become cost prohibitive, with farmers using truck driving to supplement their income no longer able to source work.
Cattle Council of Australia chief executive officer Jed Matz said the orders would have significant and immediate impacts on the bottom line of rural transport operators and cattle producers.
Mr Matz said the rural transport system was complex, with owner-drivers being prime contractors one day and sub-contractors the next.
He said a single return trip could involve multiple customers and destinations, mixed loads, part loads, or side work fitting in with the primary task.
“The orders will have a significant impact on the effectiveness of a transport system integral to the cattle industry from the point of view of movement between properties, saleyards, feedlots and abattoirs around Australia,’’ he said.
Cattle Council has put its full weight behind the National Farmers Federation call for quick action by the Coalition Government to protect thousands of rural businesses from financial ruin.
According to the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, the orders override all contracts with non-compliance subject to significant penalties.
Backloads at rates below the specified minimums will no longer be permissible, meaning that either a full rate load is carried on the return trip or the truck must return empty.
The NFF has backed the findings of two reports recommending the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal be abolished, and has applied to delay implementation until January 1, 2017.
NFF president Brent Finlay said the new rules meant many smaller family owned businesses would become uncompetitive.
Sources: Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, Cattle Council of Australia