Federal parliament has scrapped the Gillard government’s road safety tribunal, skirting a minimum wage decision for owner-driver truckies.
Legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal passed the Senate without Labor’s support on Monday evening after two hours of debate.
The bill passed 36 to 32 with the support of the crossbench except Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir.
Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox welcomed the abolition.
“Ai Group opposed the establishment of the tribunal, and ever since we have called for its abolition,” he said.
“The tribunal should never have been established in the first place. It was set up in response to a Transport Workers Union industrial campaign.
‘The idea that paying drivers more or differently will improve road safety has been rightly rejected by Parliament.”
Just hours earlier the tribunal had done an extraordinary backflip, agreeing to consider delaying the introduction of minimum payments for thousands of truck drivers until 2017.
Reversing its previous refusal to delay the introduction of the rates, on Monday the tribunal used its change of position to criticise the federal government for not earlier releasing two reports into the new payments system.
Introducing the bill to scrap the tribunal into federal Parliament on Monday , the government’s leader in the house, Christopher Pyne, said the tribunal’s refusal to delay the introduction of the rates despite calls from industry and union was the “last straw”.
“We cannot afford to wait any longer for this mess to be sorted out,” Mr Pyne said. “We must stop this act of economic vandalism – there are real families suffering real stress and financial ruin.”
He said the government was not prepared to allow small business operators and families to be punished “just because they decided to buy a truck instead of a corner store.
“Some drivers have indicated they are parked up and will be broke within weeks,” he said.
“This order has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with pricing small businesses out of a market. Small businesses whose workers don’t typically choose to be a member of a union – which when it boils down to it, that’s what the road safety remuneration system has always really been about.”
The Transport Workers Union on Monday released polling showing just 12 per cent of voters wanted the tribunal scrapped, while a further 9 per cent supported reducing its powers.
However, 30 per cent backed strengthening the tribunal’s powers, 21 per cent backed no change and 28 per cent did not know.