Looking down the barrel of a long election campaign for the next seven weeks is not going to excite the trucking industry. We have had our moment in the sun, over the RSRT in April, and trucking industry issues are unlikely to be raised very much across the country.
However, this is not to say there are not important issues facing our industry, which we should be raising with our local member or for wider debate. Chain of responsibility and consistent enforcement are vital issues on everyone’s agenda.
The debate over the remuneration tribunal did illustrate widely differing attitudes to the trucking industry from each side of politics and also saw Senators, who held the balance of power, happy to sit and be briefed by stakeholders for trucking. This was refreshing, but don’t expect this to be a regular occurrence.
The dichotomy between the parties sees Coalition-backed small business, exemplified by owner/drivers pitted against the Labor-backed safety policy, laid out by the Transport Workers Union. Both have their strong points, and both have their detractors.
The trucking industry doesn’t need its concerns to become an issue in this election, it needs some sensible, long-term policy development, which will bring us forward towards a business and regulatory regime which will satisfy the needs of both the owner/driver and the Union.
It is being widely reported, Bill Shorten and the Labor Party will try and get the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal reinstated, if Labor get up this time around. However, an election result in which Labor control both House and Senate remains most unlikely, and the Senators have shown a reluctance to return the RSRT to the statute books.
The whole debate in the lead up to the abolition of the RSRT did call into question the premise, raising freight rates through legislation would improve safety. Raised rates would improve the overall condition of the trucking industry, but is unlikely to make a dent in fatality figures.
This period during the election and in the initial phase of the next government, should give the trucking industry, the regulators and the few genuinely interested politicians, a chance to clear the air and work on gaining a consensus, within the industry and between the states in creating an effective regime to effect improvement in safety levels in our industry.
Failure to do this could result in a return of the RSRT, in the event of a Labor victory. This would further fracture relations between everybody involved in trucking. This would not be a good result for anyone involved in trucking.
If the Coalition return and they find bickering between states authorities alongside no clear consensus, between all parties, taking us forward to improve safety and productivity, they will put us on the back burner, allow the confused state of legislation and regulation to continue.
What we need is simple. One regulator for the whole country applying consistent enforcement, as well as a watertight method of ensuring the safe operation of freight businesses throughout the supply chain. Is this too much to ask?
The result of the election should be rendered irrelevant, if a clear route to a regime we can all live with is being mooted. Then we can go back to dealing with our issues, and arguing amongst ourselves, ignored by the powers that be in Canberra.