Tuesday, 19 April 2016

So Malcolm Turnbull wants to continue Tony Abbott's vendetta against the former Labor Government's industrial relations legislation

After Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Bligh Turnbull initially promised to abolish a road safety tribunal if re-elected, following the body's attempts to introduce a new minimum pay rate for trucking contractors, he then announced that the demolition process would begin in this week's special parliamentary sitting.

So what did he actually abolish on 18 April 2016 and why?

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) began operation on 1 July 2012.

The Tribunal makes road safety remuneration orders, road transport collective agreements, deals with certain disputes relating to road transport drivers, their employers or hirers, and participants in the supply chain and, conducts research into pay, conditions and related matters that could be affecting safety in the road transport industry.

One month after the last federal election which saw the Liberal-Nationals coalition win government, the Abbott Government announced a review of the RSRT as part of its election promise to review industrial relations law made since the abolition of Work Choices.

The Government’s pre-election Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws (May 2013) included a commitment to review the operation of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal as a matter of urgency. [Review of the Road Safety Remuneration System, Rex Deighton-Smith Jaguar Consulting Pty Ltd, 16 April 2014]

This review was published on 16 April 2014 and, such was the alleged urgency of the matter that the government did not act on its recommendations.

On 11 December 2015 the Tribunal published its Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order 2016 which was to take effect from 4 April 2016.

This was the second remuneration order it has made – the first being in 2014.

Subsequent to Remuneration Order 2016 the Abbott-Turnbull Government ordered a second review of the RSRT which was published in January 2016 – a year in which not so co-incidentally it faces a federal election.

On application by Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) the Federal Court of Australia granted a stay on the remuneration order on 1 April 2016, which it later lifted on 7 April 2016.

This is where the matter stood on 18 April 2016 as to the continuing existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and the validity of its remuneration orders relating to time and distanced travelled by contract drivers.

But what of the road safety issue? Many people on the NSW North Coast are concerned about their safety when travelling on routes used by heavy commercial vehicles. Anecdotes concerning near misses and reckless heavy vehicles are common when it comes to travel on the Pacific Highway between Coffs Harbour and the NSW-QLD border.

Heavy vehicles reportedly make up 3 per cent of all Australian road traffic and heavy vehicle speeding above posted limits is recognised by governments, the trucking industry and the community as a serious issue in Australia.

Although speeding is a significant risk factor for road crashes for all types of motor vehicles, it is generally considered to be a more critical factor in heavy vehicle crashes. This is because of:
longer breaking distances—heavy vehicles require between 20 to 40 percent more stopping distance;
shorter reaction times—reaction time is a smaller proportion of stopping distance;
greater instability—heavy vehicles are less stable than lighter vehicles, which makes emergency manoeuvres and loss of control on curves more likely; and
greater collision energy—due to their size and rigidity, heavy vehicles exert more collision energy and cause more damage on impact than do other vehicles (Bishop et al. 2008; Brooks 2002; NTC 2005). [Australian Institute of Criminology, October 2012, Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 446]

The federal Dept. of Infrastructure and Regional Development publishes quarterly bulletins on fatal heavy vehicle crashes.

These following statistics are found in its December 2015 bulletin and accompanying tables.

During the 12 months to the end of December 2015, 210 people died from 187 fatal crashes involving heavy trucks or buses.

These included:

– 115 deaths from 102 crashes involving articulated trucks
– 79 deaths from 72 crashes involving heavy rigid trucks
– 20 deaths from 17 crashes involving buses.

Of those 58 fatal crashes which occurred in NSW:

* 31 involved articulated trucks (5 of which did not involve another vehicle) – resulting in 34 deaths of which 22 were drivers of either the heavy or light vehicle involved

* 22 involved heavy rigid trucks (1 of which did not involve another vehicle) - resulting in 24 deaths of which 16 were drivers of either the heavy or light vehicle involved

* 5 involved buses – resulting in 5 deaths of which 3 were drivers of the bus or light vehicle involved.

The correlation between truck drivers wages and safety has been drawn to the attention of the Turnbull Government.

The Conversation, 13 April 2016:

On the question of pay and road transport safety, the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report said:
directly comparing remuneration and safety does demonstrate statistically significant correlations. However, results vary substantially.
the four most recent papers range in conclusion from a) a very large effect, b) a U-shaped curve, in which a large positive effect of initial remuneration rises eventually turns negative, through to c) and d) with a very small effect
the literature is very limited in size and focuses on employee drivers
Drivers are likely to benefit the most [from tribunal orders] due to increased remuneration and fewer road accidents, followed by government and members of society who face costs following road crashes, and will therefore benefit from an improvement in safety.
You can read the full response from O'Connor’s spokeswoman here.
If you just read that Pricewaterhouse Coopers report excerpt above, you might think that the evidence is fairly mixed. In fact, the overwhelming weight of evidence supports Albanese’s claim: there is persuasive evidence of a connection between truck driver pay and safety. [my red bolding]

So there we have it.

The Turnbull Government ignored evidence and supported trucking industry calls to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and, with the assistance of Senate cross benchers on 18 April, set in motion the removal of a minimum wages award for contract drivers.

However, voters and other road users are being told ‘don’t you worry about that’ when it comes to the safety of themselves and their families when sharing roads with commercial heavy vehicle operators seeking to make profits under a no minimum wage, performance (time) based system.

First Dog on the Moon slyly put the case for the continuance of a minimum wage, without the ongoing political interpretive dance (left) being performed by Michaelia Cash in pursuit of the creation of Work Choices Mark II:

Click on image to enlarge

No comments: