On 18 April the Senate finally voted to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) and repeal theRoad Safety Remuneration Act 2012 (Cth). The Bill abolishing the RSRT and repealing the Act received Royal Assent on 19 April, which means the RSRT and all Orders of the RSRT ceased to take effect from 21 April 2016. Accordingly, the RSRT will cease to operate or perform any of the functions prescribed to it by the Act.
The Gillard government introduced the Tribunal to set a minimum safe rates system designed to prevent a “deadly cycle” of low-cost contracts that undermine road safety and to regulate the trucking industry. The payment regulations meant that owner drivers would be required to charge a minimum rate for all freight, including backloads.
The Federal Government has chosen to abolish the Tribunal for failing to achieve its aims of making the road transport industry “fairer and safer”. The Government argued that the tribunal’s payment regulations are detached from reality and have dirtied a fair and competitive market which has placed pressure on small trucking businesses and subsequently tens of thousands of jobs.
The Government has instead chosen to redirect the RSRT’s funding to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator as the Government believes the NHVR is the best mechanism for achieving real safety outcomes for the heavy vehicle sector and the broader community.
The legislation passed the Senate without Labor’s support 36 to 32.
The vote followed an earlier debate about the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) where the Senate voted down legislation to re-establish the ABCC to crush what a recent Royal Commission described as “systematic” union corruption and unlawful conduct. The Senate’s actions have handed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull a double dissolution trigger as Turnbull threatened to have the Governor-General dissolve both houses of Parliament if the Bill failed to pass the Senate.
The ABCC was originally established by the Howard Government as an industry watchdog to monitor and promote workplace relations in the building and construction industry. It was axed by Labor in 2012, however in 2013 Tony Abbott won a mandate at the election to re-establish the ABCC but the Senate has blocked it for nearly three years.