RSRT to face 'urgent' review: Abbott

Hard look at need for Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal will be a Coalition government priority

RSRT to face 'urgent' review: Abbott
RSRT to face 'urgent' review: Abbott
By Rob McKay | May 9, 2013

The Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) will be in a Coalition Government’s sights on a change of government, the Opposition confirmed in the its industrial relations policy released today.

In February, Opposition transport spokesman Warren Truss’s office said in relatively neutral terms that the tribunal would face a review, along with many other aspects of government.

This was met with an assurance from Transport Workers Union National Secretary Tony Sheldon that anyone tampering with the tribunal was "in for a fight" from "many players within the industry, including operators, owner-drivers and this union".

But the policy statement, The Coalition’s Policy to Improve the Fair Work Laws, casts the review as a priority.

"A Coalition Government will urgently review the operation of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal and the need for a further level of regulation," point 13 states.

"In recent years, there have been many developments to address safety and remuneration issues in this sector, including revised health and safety laws, the introduction of modern awards, the Fair Work Commission and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator.

"There is no evidence that a separate additional tribunal or a further level of regulation is necessary.

"Some have even suggested that the tribunal is ‘not about safety’ and a Government commissioned review found that ‘being definitive around the causal link between rates and safety is difficult’.

"Former transport union employees have spoken against the tribunal noting that there is ‘barely a specific case study where a death is involved to support [the link between rates of pay] and safety.

"A Coalition Government will urgently review the operation of this tribunal.

"Other protections, like National Heavy Vehicle Regulator [sic] will stay."

The mention of "former transport union employees" relates to former TWU spokesman Seth Tenkate, who was quoted in The Australian Financial Review last Friday in terms very similar to the policy statement, its notes show.

Truss himself has made no secret of his opposition to the tribunal.

Another pledge likely to have some resonance in the trucking industry, though not specific to it, is to provide potential immunity from Fair Work Ombudsman fines to a small business "if it pays or applies the wrong employment conditions, provided the error was not deliberate and the employer had previously sought Fair Work Ombudsman advice and help on the same issue".

Much of the policy is directed at rolling back union power and putting a productivity element into enterprise bargaining.

"The only people with anything to worry about from this policy are dodgy union officials and their supporters," Opposition leader Tony Abbott says.

The Coalition promises to curtail union right of entry provisions, saying Fair Work law allowed "much easier and far broader" access under Fair Work law than were promise in 2007.

Noting the controversy surrounding the Health Services Union and the Australian Workers Union, a Coalition government will "ensure that registered organisations and their officials play by the same rules as companies and their directors, with the same penalties".

It will also create a Registered Organisations Commission to oversee the new rules and "help educate people about improved standards".

What the policy describes as a "strike first, talk later" approach is to be reversed and the construction industry watchdog, the Building and Construction Commission, is to be restored.

Abbott says there will also be a Productivity Commission review of the longer-term operation of Fair Work laws.

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