Owner drivers and their partners stand together to protest the RSRT order for owner drivers, at the Anti-RSRT convoy, BP Archerfield April 3.
Owner drivers and their partners stand together to protest the RSRT order for owner drivers, at the Anti-RSRT convoy, BP Archerfield April 3. Carly Morrissey

Turnbull commits to scrap RSRT if re-elected

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced he will abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) if re-elected, following the Federal Court's decision to overturn a stay on the Order last week.

Mr Turnbull based his decision on the findings of two independent reviews of the Road Safety Remuneration System that outlined economic consequences and a lack of conclusive evidence around safety.

A PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) review predicted a net cost to the economy in excess of $2 billion in net present value terms (NVP) over 15 years from 2012 and found abolishing the tribunal would "result in significant net benefit to the economy and community at large".

Mr Turnbull said the tribunal had failed to deliver and he committed to its abolishment, with plans to redirect the tribunal's $4 million in annual funding to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).

"There is no evidence that the Road Safety Remuneration System has achieved any safety outcomes in its four years of operation," Mr Turnbull said.

"The Government has acted on the evidence found in two reviews of the RSR System, which found that the rationale for the system is flawed."

Labor shadow workplace relations minister Brendan O'Connor stood by the tribunal's minimum pay rates following the Prime Minister's announcement.

"This decision is extraordinary and extremely dangerous given the body of evidence that links pay and safety on our roads," Mr O'Connor said.

"The Turnbull Liberal Government has gone from seeking to delay the decision by legislation to now recklessly trying to kill off the tribunal, simply because Malcolm Turnbull doesn't like its decision."

The TWU has also opposed the Prime Minister's announcement to abolish the RSRT, citing the PwC report and alarming fatality rates.

"The prime minister's own reports show that road transport has the 'highest fatality rates of any industry in Australia' with 12 times the average for all industries," said TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon.

"His own reports show that this Tribunal will reduce truck crashes by 28%.

"Yet he is attacking the Tribunal - the one body which can provide a solution."

A number of peak industry bodies have supported Turnbull's move to abolish the Tribunal if re-elected, although concerns are still being raised about what is happening right now to support struggling owner-drivers.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has backed the Prime Minister's commitment to abolish the tribunal, as well as the bolstering of NHVR funding to improve safety.

"The ATA has been urging the Government to repeal the Act and abolish the Tribunal as a matter of urgency and today the industry feels like it has been heard," said ATA Chief Executive Chris Melham.

"The ATA strongly supports measures that have genuine impacts on safety, because even one accident is one too many.

"The Heavy Vehicle National Law is seeing a consistent and constructive approach to improving real safety outcomes through fatigue, speeding and loading requirements."

NatRoad Chief Executive Officer Warren Clark said the Coalition's pledge to abolish the RSRT if re-elected was encouraging, but action is required now to keep businesses afloat.

"I'm pleased to see the Prime Minister listening to concerns raised not only by NatRoad's members but also in two reviews of the Tribunal," Mr Clark said.

"However thousands of owner drivers, and small and medium transport businesses, now have to comply with RSRO 2016 and charge a higher fee for their services.

"These families need the Order suspended to have any hope of keeping their businesses afloat."

The Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALTRA) seconds NatRoad's concerns over damage being done right now, while the Order remains effective.

"While the ALRTA is pleased with the commitment, surely, the whole of the Federal Parliament must recognise that the 2016 Road Safety Remuneration Order is destroying businesses right now," said ALTRA President Keenan

"I also welcome the commitment to redirect funding from the Road Safety Remuneration System to a real safety regulator that we know is making a difference to on road safety outcomes - the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator."

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