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Thursday, 15 March 2012
Page: 3080


Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (12:33): I would like to talk to these amendments and more broadly to the bill itself. But before doing so, I congratulate Nick Champion, the member for Wakefield, on his elevation to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, which I have served on since I entered the parliament. It is a very good committee. I wish him well and, as his deputy, I will cooperate very well with him.

Mr Champion: I'm the young apprentice.

Mr NEVILLE: Yes, the sorcerer's apprentice! The member for Gippsland in his contribution to this debate put his finger on it when he said that in coming to these amendments we need to know the background of what the coalition members had to say about the bill. The four of us on the committee did not get together in a coalition cabal. We felt that the report fairly reflected the evidence that was given; but, when we came to delineating the issues, we did not think the case had been made for a second tribunal. After all, we have got Fair Work Australia. Why do we need this second tribunal?

The shadow minister at the table has just said that one of these amendments puts a very heavy onus on this new road safety remuneration tribunal insofar as, if you have a contract between a group of independent contractors—perhaps an owner-driver and an employer or a directing company—it must be approved, not maybe approved, by the tribunal.

Many things can affect the livelihoods of long-haul truck drivers. Twelve years ago the committee I just referred to did a seminal study over many months on fatigue in transport. We went into all the things that the member for Lyne talked about—the quality of food, the rest periods, the time of day that truck drivers drove, their circadian rhythms, their slotting at their loading docks and their slotting at supermarket docks and the like. All those add to the pressures. It is not just simply a matter of pay. There is an argument that if pay were increased it may not lead to any less stressful attention to drivers but rather it may lead to some rogue employers pushing their drivers even harder on the one hand and, on the other, some of the greedy drivers, who should be taking it a bit easier, to go for more money by doing even more work. So for all sorts of reasons I do not think that is going to solve the problem. The minister at the table has asked us to debate this in the very purest sense of the word, but really, Minister, to give your coalition colleagues less than 24 hours notice of these amendments—

Mr Shorten: That's just not true.

Mr Truss: They wouldn't make it available to us.

Mr NEVILLE: That is as maybe.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. DGH Adams ): Order! The honourable member for Hinkler has the call.

Mr NEVILLE: We have had the members for Wide Bay and Wright tell us that they had trouble getting access to the amendments.

I have a good relationship with the TWU, as Tony Sheldon will tell you. He has been a good supporter of the work I have done on transport over the years. He said, on 11 July last year:

Under the carbon tax, drivers will be forced to do longer hours, sweat their trucks further, have less maintenance, and that means more deaths.

That is saying that there are factors other than remuneration. That was quite a sobering quote. On the Nine Network on the same night, he said:

How are we going to meet the extra $100 to $200 a week when this tax starts smacking truck drivers right in the teeth?

It is a very worrying thing. It is not as simplistic as the government want us to believe. Along with the shadow minister at the table, I oppose these amendments.