The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir listens on as Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer addresses the National Press Club in Canberra, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013.
The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party's Ricky Muir listens on as Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer addresses the National Press Club in Canberra, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013. AAP Image - Alan Porritt

Truckers' lives on the line as Muir moves to act

A KEY Senate crossbencher has lent his support to a transport union-led campaign to stop the Abbott Government repealing a road safety tribunal, amid claims the pressure placed on truckers to meet strict delivery deadlines is causing un-counted deaths on Australian roads.

Crossbencher Australian Motorists Enthusiasts Party Senator Ricky Muir, Labor Senator Glenn Sterle and Liberal Chris Back have put their support behind the Transport Workers' Union campaign to save the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

The tribunal, TWU assistant secretary Michael Kaine said, was crucial to preventing mounting pressure being placed on truck drivers to meet "unrealistic deadlines".

Mr Kaine said the government's plans, as part of its agenda to cut "red tape", was preparing to axe the tribunal.

He told APN the tribunal was the only body with the power to intervene when big transport clients like the retail sector "use economic pressure to force faster deliveries at the expense of safe and fair conditions for truck drivers".

The tribunal is currently part way through several key consultation processes over the deadlines for truck drivers, safety issues and negotiations between drivers and the larger clients, with official decisions expected later this year.

While not pointing the finger at any particular practice between retailers and particularly owner-operator truck drivers, Mr Kaine said the tribunal was contributing to road safety by ensuring load limits, speed limits and delivery times stayed "reasonable".

"When drivers aren't paid enough to maintain their vehicles or earn a living wage, they are forced to drive too fast, skip breaks or carry overweight loads just to survive," he said.

While Mr Kaine, Sen Muir and others met in Canberra last week to discuss the campaign, APN understands they did not approach Employment Minister Senator Eric Abetz, who is responsible for the tribunal.

Rather, the group called on the government to abandon the plans to axe the tribunal, citing new polling data commissioned by the union which showed some 73% of the 1000-odd people surveyed believed big companies should be held to account if placing such pressures on truck drivers.

The poll also found of those asked about the tribunal, some 62% supported retaining it, and 43% of respondents wanted its powers strengthened to help maintain road safety.

Sen Muir said he was supporting the campaign in the hope retaining the tribunal would mean "fewer deaths on Australian roads".

While the government has plans to abolish the tribunal, which would need to be legislated and pass the parliament before it could be repealed, no repeal legislation has yet been introduced to the parliament. - APN NEWSDESK



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