The Turnbull Government has today released a report which details the devastating personal and economic cost of Labor’s destructive Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) Payments Order on Australia’s owner truck drivers.
The Inquiry into the effect of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s Payments Order on Australian small businesses was conducted by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Carnell AO.
The report confirms that the RSRT was bad for small business, bad for owner truck drivers, bad for families and bad for the economy.
The RSRT’s Payment Order was found to be discriminatory, financially devastating and economically disastrous to those covered by it. Furthermore, the Tribunal was found to have demonstrated a complete misunderstanding of the day-to-day operational reality of the industry that it sought to interfere with.
Unsurprisingly, the report also makes clear that the decision of the Tribunal had no link to safety.
The RSRT was established by the then Employment Minister Bill Shorten in 2012 to increase the powerbase of the Transport Workers Union. It was yet another example of Bill Shorten’s deals with union bosses made at the expense of the public interest.
The report reveals harrowing personal accounts and uncovers the extent of the personal and family hardships ensured by owner-drivers as a result of the ill-conceived Payments Order. The report includes references to severe financial difficulties and personal anguish suffered by those who were affected.
With the road transport sector employing around 200,000 drivers and contributing $51 billion to the national economy, the long-term economic impact of the Payment Order had the potential to be immensely destructive.
Tens of thousands of owner truck drivers, many of whom have taken out mortgages to buy their trucks, faced the prospect of being driven out of business. Australian consumers also faced the prospect of being hit with substantial flow-on costs for everyday items that depend on a cost-efficient transport industry.
This report shows that the RSRT was one of the most damaging and ill-considered decisions of the former Labor Government. Fortunately, the Turnbull Government and a majority of the Senate crossbench were able to abolish the body before it inflicted even worse pain on thousands of hard-working small business owners.
The Government will carefully consider the recommendations contained in the report and will respond in due course.
Below are comments from affected parties who contributed to the inquiry;
“There were hundreds of trucks on the side of the road all across Australia.” (Pg. 18)
“Because of the RSRT it put us into almost $40,000 debt. We nearly lost our truck, our livelihood. Not to mention the strain it has put on our home life.” (Pg. 19)
“I have a mate in Dubbo that lost his job just because of it. And a gentleman I know in Queensland definitely killed himself over it. And that’s all I want to say about that.” (Pg. 26)
“The effect on the families – children etc, was all consuming. And in some cases it still is.” (Pg. 26)
“My wife is now looking for full-time work when we’d rather she was looking after our two young kids. There’s been a lot of family tension at home due to all the stress, and the financial stress continues.” (Pg. 25)
“Our company went into liquidation on the 19th April….We had to let our drivers go – two in January and one last week. My son has been in trucking all his adult life. He knows no other life. He has a wife and child, mortgage and personal debt. He now has no work and is in a state of turmoil. It has been a very stressful time for all of us. I get to sleep only to wake at 1 or 2 in the morning with chest pain and palpitations and general feelings of anxiety. I burst into tears whenever I talk about our situation. We have a creditors meeting in the next week and I have no idea how this goes or what to expect from it. Our life has been torn apart and destroyed.” (Pg. 25)
“Being new in this industry and my husband new to this country, it has been an absolute turmoil in our relationship, our finances and it psychologically has devastated us both. My husband was living in his truck at the servo in Adelaide unable to come home due to lack of funds.” (Pg. 26)
“There has been many sleepless nights worrying about how we are ever going to get back on top of all the bills and payments we owe. [My husband] has been driving for eighteen years and when we finally went out on our own this happens.” (Pg. 25)
“The Order was totally discriminatory towards the small family business sector, and, I personally was disturbed at the suggestion that my business was targeted as being unsafe.” (Pg. 28)