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Coalition filibusters safe rates bill

Release date: 16/03/2012

 Labor has accused the coalition of delaying passage of safe rates legislation out of cynical opposition to the laws.

Australian Associated Press

The two bills to establish a tribunal to determine pay rates and conditions for truck drivers looked set to pass the lower house on Thursday after five days of debate.


In summing up, Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten said the government was bringing in much- needed laws to make the roads safer for truckies and families.


Mr Shorten ridiculed opposition claims that it was just a measure to repay the government's union mates. The opposition should stop looking under the bed and start looking at Australia's roads, he said. Mr Shorten said the trucking industry was 10 times more dangerous than industry generally and there 
was a considerable body of Australian and overseas research linking pay rates and working conditions with accidents.


He said the tribunal would not impose conditions unless there was evidence of a link with safety. Nor would the tribunal adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. It would recognise the huge differences between, for example, couriers and livestock carriers. The bill did, in fact, pass the first stage of voting, 71-68, with Transport Workers' Union officials briefly


applauding from a gallery. Mr Shorten then moved 64 amendments. He said many of these were to clarify the tribunal's role and its relationship with competition and


consumer law. Nationals leader Warren Truss immediately complained that the opposition only saw the amendments 
late on Wednesday, which was hardly a good start to the consultation process. Mr Truss said the amendments would mean a further invasion by the unions and the tribunal into the industry. He was followed by more than 90 minutes' worth of opposition contributions.

Many of the speakers rose several times - Member for Bradfield Paul Fletcher made five separate 
contributions - to tell parliament they believed the amendments laid bare the fact industrial matters and not safety were the true reason for the bill.


Debate was cut short when the hour came for question time.


Leader of government business Anthony Albanese accused the coalition of filibustering, threatening to extend the sitting hours to deal with the bill.


Later, in question time, Mr Shorten said the coalition showed "cynical opposition to this legislation" which he believed was a fine law.


"We intend to do our bit to make roads safer," he told the house.

The government expects a final vote on the Road Safety Remuneration Bill 2011 and an associated bill will be held on Monday.

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