Federal parliament has scrapped the Gillard government’s road safety tribunal, skirting a minimum wage decision for owner-driver truckies.
Legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal passed the Senate without Labor’s support on Monday evening after two hours of debate.
The bill passed 36 to 32 with the support of the crossbench except Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir.
The government slipped the bill into this week’s parliamentary agenda after MPs and senators were called back to Canberra by the governor-general at the request of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday to consider industrial reform bills.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission bills were voted down by the Senate on Monday evening, handing Mr Turnbull a trigger for a double-dissolution election on July 2.
Labor and the Greens slammed the government’s decision to abolish the tribunal, labelling it an attack on hardworking Australians.
Senior Labor senator Stephen Conroy said Australian roads would be less safe as a result of the decision and accused Mr Turnbull of using truckies as a pawn in his political game.
“What a comedy – Mr Turnbull pretending he cares about truck drivers,” he told parliament.
“This prime minister doesn’t care about road safety. He doesn’t care about the families of the victims who die.”
The coalition used its numbers to gag debate on the abolition on Monday evening before the lower house passed the bill and sent it to the Senate.
Nationals MP Mark Coulton told parliament the decision deprived owner-driver truckies from achieving the great Australian dream of being your own boss.
He said the decision forced drivers to park their trucks because they can’t compete against bigger transport companies.
Employed truck drivers were not covered by the minimum pay decision, only drivers who own their own vehicles, making it cheaper for bigger companies who employ drivers.
Mr Coulton, who holds a heavy vehicle driver’s licence, said owner-drivers would have to charge a higher rate than the average to comply with the rules.
They had two options: break the law and hope they weren’t caught or charge the higher rate and miss out on the job.
“This is not about safety, this is about anti-competitive behaviour,” he said.
Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne argues there is no tangible safety outcome from the tribunal.
Mr Pyne says it’s vital to abolish the body to ensure owner-truck drivers can keep working.
“This is about those operators who just want to earn a living so they can continue to sponsor their local sporting club, St John’s Ambulance or their children’s school without having their livelihood threatened,” he told parliament.