Govt to scrap road tribunal immediately

The Turnbull government will move to scrap the road safety tribunal next week, after initially pledging to abolish it after the federal election.


The government is now convinced owner-truck drivers need uncertainty over minimum pay rates fixed urgently.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash will on Wednesday announce plans to introduce legislation to scrap the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal when parliament is recalled for a special session on Monday.

The government is labelling its move a test for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s leadership.

“This is an opportunity for the Labor Party to fix the mess they created,” Senator Cash told AAP in a statement.

But Labor believes scrapping the tribunal will make roads less safe for all Australians.

Opposition employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Mr Turnbull changed his position almost on a daily basis and was now “recklessly rushing” this decision through parliament.

“Safety on our roads must be paramount, and Malcolm Turnbull has no regard for this,” Mr O’Connor told AAP.

“It is now crystal clear what Malcolm Turnbull will do when he gets a decision from an independent umpire that he doesn’t like – he will just trash it.”

The abolition bill will be introduced into the House of Representatives along with separate legislation to delay a controversial tribunal decision to impose minimum pay rates on owner-truck drivers.

The government expects the delay bill to pass.

However, the coalition is not so confident it has the support in the Senate to push through tribunal’s abolition before an election – which could be as early as July 2.

Without Labor’s backing, the legislation needs six of eight crossbench votes in the upper house to pass.

Senator Cash was actively speaking with crossbenchers, a spokesman told AAP, however the numbers weren’t necessarily secured.

The move comes after independent senator Jacqui Lambie on Tuesday threw her support behind scrapping the tribunal, arguing a delay merely causes uncertainty for trucking families.

Another independent senator, Glenn Lazarus, pledged to introduce his own abolition legislation if the government didn’t act prior to the election.

Fellow crossbenchers Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm and Nick Xenophon also want the tribunal gone.

Senator Xenophon admits he backed Labor in establishing the tribunal – a Gillard government creation – but says it has morphed into a mess.

The coalition accused Labor of setting up the tribunal in 2012 to stop the Transport Workers Union campaigning against the Gillard government’s carbon tax.

Mr Shorten has previously said Labor was willing to compromise over the new minimum rates, with the leader open to a longer implementation period for the tribunal’s decision.

The government had rejected bringing on a bill to abolish the tribunal prior to the election, saying the legislation didn’t have enough support to get through the parliament.

Now Senator Cash’s office says it had become obvious the situation was dire and the government was determined to fix the mess.

“The sweetheart deal to pacify the TWU has resulted in a payment order that will destroy tens of thousands of family businesses across Australia,” Senator Cash said.

“This government will not stand by and let that happen.”

The lower house is expected to sit for two days from Monday, while the Senate is scheduled to continue for up to three weeks – with the primary purpose of dealing with legislation to reinstate the construction industry watchdog.