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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4097

Ms MacTIERNAN (Perth) (11:35): I could not wait to get out of the starting blocks on this one. This is complete and arrant nonsense. The people campaigning for the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal were, in fact, the owner-drivers—they were private enterprise. I know this extremely well because when I had responsibility for transport in Western Australia this was a major issue. I had meetings where 100 owner-drivers would turn up and express their support and their demand for a remuneration tribunal at a state level, and we gave it to them. We gave it to them for this reason: because we absolutely understood that every report that has been issued over the last 20 years has come to exactly the same conclusion—that the inequality in bargaining power in this industry is forcing these owner-drivers to do things that are unsafe, including pushing fatigue boundaries in order to do exactly as the member for Lyons said. There are situations where people have mortgaged their home to buy their rig, but they are at the mercy of Coles and Woolworths driving prices down, down, down. As they drive prices down, down, down, the prices being offered to these contractors are being driven down, down, down. They have to make a living and they accept those jobs. They know it is wrong. They know they are putting their lives at risk. They know they have to take the mixed grill to keep them going, comprising their long-term health. They are all aware for this. Their wives, their partners, who are often in the business, understand this and they want to be protected. These are people in private enterprise. A very significant proportion of the Transport Workers Union's membership has been owner-drivers.

You guys hate these discussions about safety because you know you are fundamentally weak on this point. I want to point out the whole zeitgeist of what is going on under the Abbott/Turnbull government and its attitude towards trade unions. Its vilification of trade unions, its incredible obsession with trade unions, is having a big impact. It is creating a culture where employers feel that they can make these cutbacks and that they can prevent unions from attending worksites.

In my electorate, a couple of months ago, two young men, both backpackers, died on a building site. They had been on this building site for a week. One in particular, Gerry, had been a barista or a barman up until six days before. He got his little white card, we think he probably got it online after a couple of hours, then went to this workplace. This workplace was one that the union movement—the CFMEU—had attempted to enter on many occasions because of their concerns about safely, and they were denied. The Fair Work Commission—under this government, with direction from the government—were focusing on this union. Was this union breaching its rights of entry? They were not concerned, apparently, by what many people argue were manifestly unsafe working conditions and a lack of compliance with a whole set of regulations that are designed to protect workers.

This is not about being anti-employer. In fact, decent employers get angry when we do not do things about those employers who cut corners and are prepared to put people's lives at risk. It makes it harder for those people who want to do the right thing: people who enjoy their enterprise and believe that they are creating good within the community. They are the ones who are being punished by your absolute obsession and your refusal to acknowledge that we need the trade union movement to ensure that there is proper balance within our society and that there is equality of bargaining. (Time expired)

Mr Hutchinson interjecting

Ms MacTIERNAN: This is how interested your side is, isn't it? You are the only one that could pop up on this issue.

Mr Hutchinson: I was going to take the opportunity to compliment the member for Perth, but on that note I will sit down.