Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan said tens of thousands of family operated transport companies and their customers across rural and regional Australia could be driven to bankruptcy due to the radical economic agenda of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
Senator O’Sullivan said he is prepared to deliver a private member’s bill to the federal parliament in the coming weeks to stop the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in its tracks.
He said the Contractor Driver Minimum Payments Road Safety Remuneration Order (RSRO) has caused unnecessary worry and heartache for more than 35,000 owner-drivers across Australia since it was handed down by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal in December.
The RSRO dictates legally binding minimum hourly and kilometre payments for owner-drivers, which will see the cost of delivery increase by 15-30 per cent above the market rate charged by bigger transport companies.
“Basic economics demonstrates that when two products are roughly the same, such as in the transport sector, the lower price wins,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
“The tribunal’s legally binding payment order will force owner-operators to charge higher rates than their bigger transport company competitors. It places owner-drivers at a significant competitive disadvantage.
“This will ruin family run businesses all across the nation and allow large transport operators, and their union workforces, to take more and more market share.
“The tribunal’s order is an insult to every honest business operator and worker in this nation who believes in a free and fair marketplace.”
Senator O’Sullivan said the tribunal was established by the Gillard Government in 2012 as a Statutory Body with the power to make decisions independent of the Federal Government.
As a result, he said the ability of the Turnbull Government to overturn any decision by the tribunal would require an act of parliament.
As it currently stands, the payments order will apply to owner drivers from 4 April.
The tribunal is currently considering a proposal to delay the commencement of the order until the end of the year to allow owner drivers to understand the order and modify their business practices.
A decision on any change to the start date of the payments order is expected by COB Friday April 1.
Senator O’Sullivan said urgent action needed to be taken to prevent the tribunal from causing irreversible damage to Australia’s transport sector.
“I understand some of my colleagues are already undertaking work to investigate the available options to challenge the stranglehold this tribunal has over our national transport sector,” Senator O’Sullivan.
“My contribution is to explore how legislation could be drafted to overturn this payment order and ultimately abolish the tribunal.
“I’m prepared to go door to door to every Senator’s office and make my case for the termination of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
“I welcome the release of the two reports that reviewed the operation of the Road Safety Remuneration System. Their findings only add further fuel to the calls for the scrapping of the remuneration tribunal.
“This tribunal has demonstrated that’s its members have radical agenda that could destroy small businesses across the nation.
“We are better to chop its head off and make sure it can’t come back to bite us again.”