Peak body assured that new bill won’t penalise owner-drivers

New workplace laws being debated in Canberra will not have a negative impact on road transport’s most vulnerable segment, owner-drivers.

That’s the assurance that the National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) board received recently from the Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke during a personal briefing on the newly-tabled Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023.

“The minister gave us his guarantee that owner-operators will not be disadvantaged,” said NatRoad chair Paul Fellows.

“That wasn’t the case under the former Road Safety and Remuneration Tribunal which was deeply flawed and set rates so high that small operators were devastated.

“We note that the Fair Work Commission cannot make an order without lengthy consultation, input from industry advisors and having due regard to commercial realities.

“We are grateful for the personal briefing from Minister Burke and note his assurance that any FWC orders will be framed to preserve and even enhance the viability and competitiveness of owner drivers.”

NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said Burke had committed to continue to work with NatRoad and other industry representatives to ensure the commission has the power to make ‘road transport industry contractual chain orders’ to confer rights and impose obligations on contractual chain participants.

“Minimum standards are not new in road transport and many operators are already covered by state awards that set these out,” Clark said.

“If this works in tandem with the previously new unfair contracts law taking effect in November, we hope to see fewer small road transport operators being held to ransom by big companies.”

Labour’s industrial relations bill, however, had a setback last week when opposition workplace relations spokeswoman Michaelia Cash, with support of crossbenchers David Pocock, Jacqui Lambie, United Australia Party senator Ralph Babet and One Nation, passed a motion to set February 2024 as the deadline for the Senate’s report into the 284-page Closing Loopholes Bill.

Burke had hoped to have the inquiry wrapped up by November with the bill pass parliament by Christmas.

“Mr Burke had been clear that he wanted to ram this Bill through the parliament this year,’’ Senator Cash said.

“There was absolutely no need to rush this process because as Mr Burke knows most of the measures in the Bill would not be enacted until the middle or even the end of next year,.

“We will now get an inquiry that will be able to travel around the country to hear from all affected stakeholders.”

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