The whole Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal fiasco has been grinding on long enough. Now, the game has changed, our issue, ignored by all and sundry outside the industry, is now a political football. The RSRT is no longer about the survival of the downtrodden owner drivers of this country, it’s now about the survival of our well-heeled prime minister in his current job.
What happens when you become a political football? Any sensible discussion of the real issues affecting the lives of real people just goes out of the window. Much of the commentary and reporting in the general media this week has been ill-informed, misleading and designed to further someone else’s agenda.
I suppose we should be grateful, it’s the first time in living memory the trucking industry has been front and centre on a succession of news bulletins, without the story being about a reckless truckie and the death of some hapless victims.
The stories haven’t been particularly denigrating about the trucking industry, but they haven’t been particularly positive either. The discussion has come down to a few irrelevant arguments about safety and rates, missing the point in most cases.
At least they’re talking about us. We now have footage of Malcolm Turnbull climbing down out of the cabin on a Kenworth truck. Bill Shorten spent time having breakfast with truckies for the TV cameras. Michaelia Cash is now much more up to speed on trucks and trucking than she was a week ago. She has been having a holiday from defending the controversial Australian Building and Construction Commission bill to defend the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator getting the funds saved by abolishing the RSRT.
As an industry, though, we have not been able to make a dent in the perceptions of the general public about blue singlet and thongs wearing truckies taking drugs, but at least there have been some relatively positive and sympathetic comments about truckies in the media.
What is frustrating for stakeholders in trucking is how difficult it is to get the discussion to actually be meaningful and informative, to improve people’s perceptions of the trucking industry. That job is a much more long term task and it is going to take a concentrated effort by all involved to drag the trucking industry’s image nearer to reality.
This is our time and, media coverage or not, it looks like the RSRT will either be abolished or put on hold. While there is still some spotlight still shining on trucking, we need to take this short-lived opportunity to get some positive images out there, before the dust dies down around the RSRT controversy