THE Australian Government will introduce a Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, with the power to set pay and pay-related conditions for truck drivers, from July 1.
The Road Safety Remuneration Bills have passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate during sittings last week, after the government moved amendments including one that will prevent the new Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal hearing any disputes until January 1, 2013, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said six months has been give to the tribunal to begin formulating work programs and make road safety remuneration orders before beginning its dispute resolution function.
This is designed to manage the implementation of the bills and will also give industry stakeholders time to become familiar with the new regulatory framework in relation to dispute resolution.
Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese said unsafe practices put the lives of all Australians at risk.
"Safety on our roads is a critical issue for all Australians and we can't afford to continue to allow unsafe practices to impact heavily on families and communities," he said.
"Truck drivers should not have to speed, overload their trucks or drive excessive hours just to make a decent living.
"The link between exploitation and safety for drivers has been well established through independent research as well as bipartisan parliamentary inquiries."
However the transport industry is still unsure of the tribunal's impact.
Australia's peak body, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), can't say anything officially on the new bill because it doesn't deal with industrial relations issues.
However Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) as a branch of the Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation (ARTIO) said it has been involved with the bill from day one.
QTA CEO Peter Garske said it is difficult to predict what will be expected and the impact this tribunal will have on the industry, however it should work to compliment existing laws.
"I have told a number of employers that employment agreements and modern awards will still apply to employees," he said.
"It will affect employers if they are not observing current award conditions or if the consignor puts drivers or employees at risk due to driving times, arrival times or pushing them to speed.
"It is designed to remedy situations where there is a demonstrated safety risk.
"This legislation when you read the explanatory notes and the minister's speech, it is not the Trojan horse law it is designed to operate in a complementary way to existing laws and powers.
"My interpretation may not mirror that of the TWU and what we have said publicly, we will still remain guarded against legislation if it appears to be a Trojan horse."
Chief executive of the Australian Industry Group Heather Ridout said the government needs to address several industry concerns.
She said the government needs to consult with representatives of the industry, and representatives of the industries which use road transport, on the appointment of Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal members and also ensure that members have strong industry experience, not only in the road transport industry but in industries which use road transport.
She said the Ai Group opposed this bill and the new Construction Industry (Transition to Fair Work) Act claiming both of these bills addressed key claims of the construction unions and the Transport Workers Union.
"We maintain our concern about both pieces of legislation, but now that the legislation has been passed by parliament it is essential that the government work with the Australian Industry Group and other key representative bodies to ensure that the new arrangements are workable and not damaging to industry," Mrs Ridout said.