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Wednesday, 26 March 2014
Page: 3301

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (09:36): I rise today to strongly urge the government not to abandon the efforts initiated by the previous Labor government to improve the safety standards for our road transport industry.

Late last year, the Abbott government commissioned a review of the road safety remuneration system, and it now appears that the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal may be one of the first victims in an effort to reduce regulation in the industry. The tribunal, established two years ago, was put in place to create an effective safe rates system to improve the safety in what is widely known as Australia's deadliest industry.

There are approximately 25 deaths per 100,000 workers in the road transport industry, which is 10 times higher than the average for all industries in Australia. Accidents involving trucks result in the death of 330 Australians and many more injuries every year. This is in addition to the very high economic cost of $2.7 billion as a result of road accidents involving heavy vehicles.

Rather than developing strategies to strengthen the safety standards in what is clearly our deadliest industry, this government appears to be determined to wind back regulations and put more lives in danger. Earlier this week they rejected the proposal for the heavy vehicle safety and productivity program, which was introduced by Labor to fund the construction of new rest stops and parking bays designed to provide safer and more productive work environments for the heavy vehicle sector.

Clearly, there is a connection between remuneration rates and safety in the road transport industry. Financial pressures from the top of the supply chain are causing reckless behaviour, endangering drivers and all other road users. Our truck drivers work hard to make a living but they should not have to die to make a living.

I would like to acknowledge Lystra Tagliaferri and Suzanne de Beer, who are visiting Parliament House today. Lystra and Suzanne are widows. Their husbands, David and Albert, were tragically killed on the Old Coast Road in Western Australia in February 2011. They were both hit by an oncoming truck.

These two families know all too well the price of compromised and unsafe practices in the road transport industry. This is not about blame but about addressing the bigger picture, the overall conditions and safety standards in this industry. I urge the government not to abandon the efforts of Labor over the last couple of years to strengthen and support safety on our roads, and I congratulate Tony Sheldon, general secretary of the TWU, for sponsoring these women to visit the parliament today to talk to members.