Opinion

Federal government sits on its hands while industry suffers

The time for the government to step in to provide financial relief for contract carriers in the transport industry is now.

It seems, however, that the current federal government is once again content to sit on its hands, refusing to act, when it comes to the needs of our industry.

You are taking the hit on your financial bottom line while fuel prices have spiked up to an eight-year high, that’s according to a recent petrol monitoring report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

As an industry representative, we are hearing first-hand the financial burden owner-drivers are facing.

Owner-drivers are calling us, we are responding. This is why the TWU is in the court, seeking relief. In light of past performance, we currently do not trust that the varying levels of government will adequately respond to the needs of the transport industry.

The Transport Workers’ Union filed a claim in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission for an increase to rates paid to critical owner-drivers, carrying freight under the General Carriers Contract Determination.

The rates that contract carriers are being paid were set when diesel costs were around $1.23 a litre. Now they are averaging $2.18 a litre (and more) at the pump.

It is you as transport workers who are copping the costs of getting the job done. We know that contracts are not changing to meet higher fuel costs.

Drivers are telling the union that the situation is appalling. The federal government must surely be aware that fuel is the big cost drivers are covering. Drivers are asking us, “Where is it going to stop?”

We know that what might lose out is truck maintenance, finance payments, or the mortgage. The real impact is on working families.

According to a TWU survey conducted in 2021, three in four owner-drivers had worked for no profit and nearly two thirds were constantly worried they would need to sell their truck to get by. More than half said they had been forced to delay maintenance to their trucks because they could not afford it.

This was before fuel prices spiked.

We would also make a suggestion to the NSW Roads Minister, Natalie Ward. Speak to Transurban Linkt who operate Toll Roads and seek financial relief for the transport workers forced to use toll roads to get the job done.

Australian truck drivers are paying 44.2 cents a litre in federal government fuel excise, plus an additional 10 per cent in GST.

Removing the excise could be the first step in helping transport operators stay in the black.

While other countries are now intervening to ease the fuel cost spike, the Morrison Government has remained a spectator, still focused on squeezing every dollar out of you they can.

The TWU has written to the Prime Minister asking for financial relief for the transport industry. Not to anyone’s surprise, we have not heard back from him.

Richard Olsen is the NSW/Qld TWU state secretary.

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