Road safety close to senator’s heart

A Labor senator whose partner died in a road accident almost 20 years ago has lamented the political brawl over a road safety tribunal.

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Parliament on Monday abolished the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal – a creation of the Gillard government – after owner-driver truckies campaigned against its decision to impose minimum pay rates.

“It affects my life every day,” former ACT chief minister Katy Gallagher told reporters on Tuesday as she reflected on the death of her fiance Brett Seaman, who was hit by a car while cycling in 1997, when she was 27 and pregnant.

Owner-driver truckies have been up in arms over the tribunal’s ruling with many complaining they have lost work because it had made them too expensive to hire.

The Transport Workers Union erected hundreds of crosses on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra to represent the 2500 people killed in truck crashes in the past decade.

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor warned the decision to abolish the tribunal would cause more road deaths.

“Malcolm Turnbull will rue this day that he has done this in such an expedient, arrogant, rash and disproportionate manner,” he told reporters.

But Labor has stopped short of promising to reinstate the tribunal.

“We’ll have to see what we do,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said.

Transport Minister Darren Chester accused Labor and the unions of using road tragedies for political purposes.

“It’s been an appalling use of these terrible and horrific events on our roads,” he said.

Liberal frontbencher Anne Ruston pointed out that 83 per cent of truck crashes were the fault of other vehicles on the roads.

Employed truck drivers, rather than owner-drivers, had more crashes, Senator Ruston said.

Clive Palmer was having a bob each-way on the issue.

Hours after his party’s sole senator sided with other crossbenchers to give the government the numbers it needed to abolish the tribunal, the MP was wearing a “Safe Rates” T-shirt in support of the union campaign.