Industry News

Closing Loopholes Explained

In her report back to the Livestock and Bulk and Rural Carriers Association conference, the Executive Director of the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, Rachel Smith’s speech saw the recent act passed in Federal Parliament on closing loopholes explained.

One of the commitments that the current federal government made coming into the last federal election was to enact some significant industrial relations reform. This followed the problems caused by the failed introduction of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal which was eventually thrown out.

Rachel Smith contends the new bill that has been passed includes some elements of the previous scheme, but there are a lot more safeguards.

“It will empower the Fair Work Commission to make orders on the road transport supply chain, but there’s a lot more protections built in this time,” said Rachel.

“There has to be 12 months of consultation, plus the Minister for Workplace Relations can actually intervene if an order is unfair, and can’t be applied. He can tell them to go back to the drawing board or repeal the order in its entirety. This wasn’t possible under the previous scheme.

“Some of the positives that industry can take from the Fair Work Commission is that an order could be made, for example, to set payment timeframes of small operators.

“So, I think that’s something that the Australian Trucking Association will push for and, as a member of the ATA, we will advocate for small businesses to get paid on time, not 90 days after the 30th of the month, because we all know that cash flow issue is critically important.

“Other areas that may be touched on would be fuel levies, terminations, cost recovery, and I guess  the most contentious one for industry is that there may be an application to set a minimum rate for freight.

“How that will be applied and calculated is yet to be determined. The unions will tell you it’s the setting of the minimum rate, not the ceiling, but we’re yet to see how that will play out.”

Areas that the Fair Work Commission cannot touch are overtime, rostering, deeming a contractor to be an employee of someone else, WHS matters, Heavy Vehicle National Law matters, and most importantly, matters set out in previous regulations.

The ALRTA were able to achieve a livestock transport exemption, but that is in the regulations, not in the legislation. At the moment, the ALRTA is advocating to have a rural transport exemption as well. In fact, the ALRTA were the only association, in partnership with its state associations, to achieve any kind of exemption in the regulation.

“We’ve put a flag in the sand,” said Rachel.

“It also leaves us in a good position, because we can sit back and see how some of the things are going. If it’s good, livestock transport carriers may opt to be in the legislation and have that exemption removed.

“But if things aren’t working out well, we can lobby harder with government, because we’ve already demonstrated that exemptions can be done, and that we can get an exemption for parts of our workforce that these orders or this legislation is not working for.

“In terms of what is next, we will continue to work with the cross bench to ensure that this legislation doesn’t negatively impact the association’s membership, whether you’re a rural carrier, or you’re a livestock transporter.

“We’re also speaking to the minister’s office a couple of times a week at the moment, and I’ll continue to do so. They seem open to feedback, I think they learned a lesson last time with RSRT that it wasn’t workable.

“Industry rightly, strongly lobbied hard to have that piece of legislation repealed. I think they’ve learned they need to do genuine consultation and take on feedback.”

 

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