SUBJECT/S: Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, TWU, Australian Builing and Construction Commission, Newspoll
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: I'm joined live from our Sydney studio by the Employment Minister Michaelia Cash. Senator Cash, welcome to the program.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you as always.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Why is this going to impact on owner operators so disproportionately? If it's a minimum pay rate, for instance, for the whole industry, won't everyone benefit?
MINISTER CASH: No they won't because you quite rightly pointed out, it only applies to owner drivers.
This is basically a way to price them out of the market and to force them into becoming employee drivers and ultimately members of the TWU (Transport Workers Union).
You know, this is not something that the Government has made up.
This is something that I have now been responding to because of the quite literally hundreds to thousands of emails and phone calls that we have received from owner drivers who are, you know, mum and dads of Australia who've mortgaged their house to buy a truck, to do the right thing, you know, put food on the table for the family, put the kids through school.
And as a result of this stitch-up by the former government, Bill Shorten, Julia Gillard, a gift to the TWU, we now face tens of thousands of hard working Australians, truck drivers across Australia, either having their trucks repossessed or having to get rid of them because of this pay order...
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay.
MINISTER CASH: ...that should have come into effect on the 4th of April.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But isn't this part of the point? I mean their working conditions are notoriously bad. We know that many of them are driving for longer than they should. It's also a broader safety issue isn't it? It's designed to protect other road users?
MINISTER CASH: No, you're actually wrong there because no, the evidence, even the Gillard government's regulatory impact statement in relation to the setting up of this tribunal did not support the TWU and the Labor government's continued claims that if you pay drivers more suddenly you solve the problems in relation to safety on our roads.
The two reports that this Government has just released that looked at the road safety remuneration tribunal, the one by Price Waterhouse Coopers and the Jaguar report again both say there is no link.
Merely paying someone more does not suddenly mean they are going to institute safe work practice.
There is a myriad of other policy measures that you can put in place and are already in place that should be contributing to safer roads.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: So your concern seems to be that it's forcing independent contractors, independent owners into a unionised environment, into the TWU.
MINISTER CASH: I am worried Michael that there are going to be tens of thousand mum and dads in Australia - these are fantastic people. You know, they run their own businesses, they mortgaged their houses to buy one truck so they could have a job, put their kids through school, you know, put meals on the table, that have basically been told if you don't charge these rates - which they can't because they have already been told, you know, the bigger companies will not be paying these rates.
They will just go to employee drivers because the rates do not apply to them.
This is all about making owner drivers uncompetitive, a tribunal stepping in and saying we are going to tell you what to charge even if that prices you, which it will do, out of the market, and we couldn't care less about job losses across Australia.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, are you going, are you introducing this as legislation?
MINISTER CASH: We are.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Are you going to link it to the ABCC bill?
MINISTER CASH: No, not at all. This is a completely separate piece of legislation; it will be introduced into the House of Representatives on the 18th of April.
It clearly won't come before the Senate until we have dealt with both the ABCC and, in the event the ABCC gets up, the registered organisation legislation. There is no linking.
This is - you know, there are people out there who phone my office, grown men in tears begging us to do something.
Now Michael as you know because this is an independent tribunal the Government's hands are really tied in relation to what we can do.
We have been intervening in applications in the Federal Court to have the pay order stayed.
I think that is a reasonable compromise. Let's just stay this order until the 1st of January 2017 so that we can work through all of the issues with owner drivers and that is what they are telling us they would like in the first instance.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay.
MINISTER CASH: I am beside myself as to why Labor and the Greens would rather see tens of thousands of job losses across Australia than work with us...
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Well I think as Brendan O'Connor said, he is quite happy to discuss it if you want to discuss it, rather than put it through as legislation.
MINISTER CASH: Well why haven't, well hold on - well, you now tell me then, Michael, what is the alternative given the only way of solving this now, the tribunal has made its position quite clear, the TWU have made their position quite clear this pay order as far as they are concerned will come into effect.
The only option the Government has other than supporting the applications by the truck drivers to have the order stayed is a legislative mechanism.
That's it Michael; that's all we can do.
I'm not going to sit here and play games with the jobs and the livelihoods of tens of thousands of owner drivers in Australia because Brendan O'Connor, big chief supporter of the CFMEU, great supporter of the TWU, does not care about job losses. I am not going to do that.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay, just on a couple of issues quickly.
Obviously you would have seen the polls today, Newspoll shows Coalition behind Labor on a two party preferred basis.
That's the first time since Malcolm Turnbull took the leadership - how do you explain that?
MINISTER CASH: Well I also note there's a Morgan poll which says something quite different. You know, people tend to focus on the poll that says the worst thing but at the end of the day the reality is this: it's an election year.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: I think it's Malcolm Turnbull who focused on Newspolls.
MINISTER CASH: It's an election year and polls always narrow. But when you look at the preferred prime minister poll Malcolm Turnbull is clearly still out-polling Bill Shorten at least two to one.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The trend isn't going the way you would want it though, is it?
MINISTER CASH: You know, we dealt with some really difficult issues last week and when you deal with difficult issues, in particular in relation to taxation at both a Commonwealth level and a state level, it can sometime get a little bit messy.
But, you know, we had a major step forward next week. The states have continually come to the Commonwealth and said we want more money.
The Commonwealth put an option on the table which was, if you want more money we are going to give you the ability to raise that money and then control how it is spent.
The states have come to us, other than Colin Barnett in Western Australia, and said no.
So the good news for us all now is we know where we stand with the states which means that the Commonwealth's message, we all now have to live within our means, should be being heard loudly by everybody across Australia including state governments who did not want the opportunity to raise, you know, partly their own taxes and then be held responsible and accountable for how that money was going to be spent.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay Michaelia Cash, we will leave it there, thanks very much for joining us.
MINISTER CASH: Great to be with you as always.
MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.