Cash tells Tip Top contractors to go to court

RSRT debate on again following new Tip Top revelations on the ABC's 7.30 Report

Cash tells Tip Top contractors to go to court
Michaelia Cash admits that the vast majority of crashes involving heavy vehicles is not the fault of the truck drivers.


Federal employment minister Michaelia Cash has told Tip Top contractors that they must seek Federal Court action for any grievances they may have.

The response came after sustained Opposition questioning on the issue in the Senate and the House of Representatives, with Labor leader Bill Shorten focused on prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and senator Glenn Sterle on Cash.

Both Opposition members raised the abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), in a coordinated action that followed a second look at Tip Top by the ABC’s 7.30 Report, though Sterle’s main line of questioning was on what Cash had done in response to the second story.

After noting that "if there are any drivers who are concerned across Australia about the safety of their vehicle, they should immediately contact the road transport authority in their state, and amidst several points of order on relevance, Cash states: "Owner-drivers are covered by the Independent Contractors Act 2006 and, if they have concerns in relation to their contracts, they can also apply to the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court to have a review of the contract on the grounds that the contract is harsh or unfair."

In the House of Representatives, Turnbull says the RSRT had "driven 50,000 off the road".

Hansard records the exchange as follows:

Mr SHORTEN (Maribyrnong—Leader of the Opposition) (14:58): My question is to the Prime Minister. Last night on the 7.30 Report families of delivery drivers told harrowing stories of the unreasonable demands Tip Top made on their contract drivers. One family of a driver told how one night after returning to work after having a lung removed he called in sick but was told he was under contract, so he drove until he had to give up work altogether and died later that year. Why did the Prime Minister abolish the independent Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and put nothing in its place to ensure safe and fair conditions for contract drivers?

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth—Prime Minister) (14:58): The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, so called, set up at the behest of the Transport Workers Union, put 50,000 owner-drivers off the road—very cosy for the big union and big trucking companies.

Mr Albanese interjecting—

Mr TURNBULL: It is absolutely true. The member for Grayndler says it isn't true. He should have met some of those owner-drivers. We all did. He should get out more and meet people who are battling in their small family business to make a living. We take the safety of all road users, including truck drivers, very seriously. That's why we're investing $75 billion in infrastructure from this year, over the next decade, including in a number of programs that specifically target road safety. We listened to the owner-drivers. We spoke to hundreds of them, but there were thousands involved—small trucking businesses who were put out of work by the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, which we were able to abolish, another great step and a great advance that our government has taken to put small business first. We have also provided an additional $4 million a year, which Labor had allocated to this anti-family-business tribunal, to progress practical initiatives that will improve the safety of the heavy vehicle industry. They include improving the education responsibility, improving heavy vehicle monitoring, funding for research into heavy vehicle driver fatigue to inform the development of future fatigue arrangements, safer freight networks in high-risk areas, black spots, national heavy vehicle safety and productivity, and bridges renewal programs. We are committed to safer roads and we're committed to backing safe trucking and safety for family businesses and truckers, whether they're working for themselves or for big companies. We're putting the resources in to back that. Labor set out to put 50,000 families out of business and, had it not been for the Senate voting to abolish that tribunal, those families would be out of work and on the breadline. That's Labor's approach to enterprise and hardworking Australian families. The alternative is what we do, which is to put more money into the pockets of hardworking Australian families, backing investment, backing jobs and backing enterprise. Labor hates that because, as he said to the BCA, he thinks a class war is just the ticket. Well, it's the ticket to disaster for Australia.

Back in the Senate, Cash also acknowledged a factor in accidents that the trucking industry has been at pains to highlight.

"While obviously acknowledging every death and serious injury on our roads is shocking, it is also important to note, and you would know this, that the vast majority of crashes involving heavy trucks are actually not the fault of the truck drivers themselves," she says.

"The heavy vehicle industry is a focus of work for Safe Work Australia and health and safety regulators in all jurisdictions in order to reduce the high numbers of fatalities in that industry."


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