Page 2781 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005

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ACT are unreliable because in many cases no data exist and because of the relative error rate.

Mr Stanhope has failed to understand the deficiencies in this survey. I think that it is regrettable that he has leapt in without doing his homework. I am surprised that the Treasurer has followed the same course of action.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The member’s time has expired.

Industrial relations

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (6.15): Today, some 500 trucks took part in a convoy from Sydney to the ACT. Contrary to my son’s thoughts that they were here to celebrate his birthday, they were actually here in protest over the federal government’s planned industrial relations changes that will make working in the transport industry a safety nightmare. The Transport Workers Union convoy to Canberra is the largest mobile demonstration against the Howard government’s industrial relations changes by both owner-drivers and employee-drivers in Australia. They are taking their protest directly to John Howard’s house because the changes that he wants to introduce will destroy their houses, their businesses and their families.

As this Assembly is well aware, owner-drivers are routinely working an average of 70 hours a week. For many drivers, the introduction of the proposed independent contractors act will result in an increase in already high driving hours, with a race to the bottom in a bid for trucking contracts. The changes that the Howard government will implement will see transport workers, hundreds of them here in Canberra, without any rights to independent representation.

The proposed independent contractors act clearly says that it will be against the law for drivers to be represented by their union. That means that drivers will have to compete with each other for a contract and to win a contract a driver will have to be the fastest driver. This will increase the carnage on our roads. The impact of these changes on truck drivers includes no access to the Industrial Relations Commission to settle disputes. Drivers will be at the mercy of their principal contractor when disagreement arises at work. These changes will wipe out the right of owner-drivers to collectively bargain through contract determinations.

In 2004, there were 103 deaths in New South Wales alone in the heavy vehicle industry. With a documented relationship between remuneration and safety, a concern for many owner-drivers is the removal of the minimum rates as provided for in contract determinations. Further, no contract determination to set collective rates and conditions means owner-drivers who have for decades negotiated a base rate will now be forced to compete with each other, a competition that will no doubt be a forced race to the bottom.

Under these changes, owner-drivers will have no right to union representation in negotiations with principal contractors. So, whilst big business can engage the likes of the Road Transport Association, drivers will be denied the fundamental right to freedom of association and the benefits of collective union membership. Those drivers who do not trust their principal contractors to include the fine print will be forced to engage expensive solicitors to ensure that they are not signing away future rights.

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