Page 2782 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 16 August 2005
My greatest concern about these changes is that, combined with no union representation, owner-drivers will now be denied access to unfair dismissal laws. If a driver refuses to carry an unsafe load or refuses to drive dangerous hours, he or she can be sacked and under these changes will have no right to seek recourse. Drivers will be forced to choose between their livelihood and their lives.
Since 1999 there have been some 8,000 serious injuries recorded as a result of accidents involving heavy vehicles. When the link between pay and safety has been established in the transport industry, why then is the federal government pushing such a dangerous agenda? I found my answer in the Liberal Party’s 2004 election platform, which states, “The independent contractors act will legislate to protect independent contracting from interference from unions, tribunals, commissions and other bodies.” From interference from unions? When owner-drivers exercise their fundamental right to join a union, is that interference? I believe that meddling in a system that has delivered fair outcomes to workers and their families is interference. I believe that denying workers the right to challenge an unfair dismissal is interference. I believe that deregulating an industry that had 103 deaths in one year alone is negligence.
The Transport Workers Union will not let this neglect go unchallenged. This growing, vibrant union is and always has been member-focused and member-driven, and those TWU owner-drivers at Parliament House today will not forfeit their rights without a fight. We should spare a thought for those principal contractors who want to do the right thing by their contractors through fair remuneration and union representation but will now be forced to compete with the owner down the road who is driven by profit and greed.
In closing, I would like to quote a TWU member, Paul Walsh, who today told his driver comrades that this is John Howard’s final victory lap and he is using it to thank and reward those in big business that continue to finance his campaigns. The proposed independent contractors act was drawn up by the bosses for the bosses.
Parliamentary rugby game
MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (6.20): This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural, I think, all-Australian parliamentary rugby game in Sydney. It was played at Olympic Park. Modesty prevents me from talking about the try scorers, but I would say that it was my first game of rugby and it was quite enjoyable.
Ms MacDonald: Did you win?
MR SESELJA: It was actually a draw. It was a state and territory 15 versus the federal parliamentarians. The federal parliamentarians came from across the parties. Mal Brough, Robert McClelland, Craig Emerson, Joel Fitzgibbon and, I think, Warren Snowdon were there. The states and territories, unfortunately, were represented only by ACT parliamentarians—Bill Stefaniak, Steve Pratt and I—and a couple of staffers. I believe that someone from Karin MacDonald’s office was there. There was a mix of former Wallabies in both teams, people like John Langford, Scott Gourlay, Marty Roebuck, James Grant and Sam Scott-Young. I played outside a former