Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Amendment Bill 2016

Mr CLARK (Box Hill) — The opposition supports these amendments by the Legislative Council. Indeed the major ones were ones that we initiated to make clear that when the minister did nominate an alternative body to take the place of a body specified in the act that replacement body then took on the status of a body named in the act to avoid the potential risk of any minister — be it the current minister or a future minister — having the capacity to replace an alternative body at will rather than because it had ceased to exist. That loophole has now been closed by those amendments, and that is a satisfactory outcome.

As the minister referred to in her closing remarks, the main issues in relation to owner-drivers and forestry contractors are those surrounding what the government may be doing in the future as to whether, for example, they are going to try to reintroduce the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal scheme of the commonwealth by a backdoor means.

Ms Hutchins — By legislation.

Mr CLARK — The community is very much looking forward, and the industry also is looking forward, to the government clarifying what it intends in that regard. I think I heard the minister say by way of interjection that the government is going to do it by legislation, and if the government is going to do that, then I think that is something that would be of very grave concern to many people who were pleased to see the abolition of the commonwealth Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal scheme, because it was a backdoor way of driving owner-drivers out of business in order to further union domination of the industry. It was not either a bona fide or a well-conceived measure directed towards addressing safety in the industry. Certainly on this side of the house we would welcome well-considered measures that enhance industry safety, but trying to drive one section out of business — trying to drive small owner-driver operators out of business — is not the way to go.

However, that is a matter for another day, and we await the government’s clarification of its intentions in that regard. If the government is intending to try to reintroduce a Victorian version of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal scheme, then the government should come out and say so, and the industry and the community will know where we stand. But for the time being the opposition supports these amendments of the Legislative Council.

Motion agreed to.

Ms HUTCHINS (Minister for Industrial Relations) — I move:

That the amendments be agreed to.

The bill has a commencement date of 1 September 2017, which has now passed of course, so the amendment to clause 2 will alter this to 1 March 2018. The other amendments to clauses 4 and 5 clarify that if the member specifies a replacement body, then the new body has the same status as if it were named in the act. That is probably the extent of explanation that is required around these amendments.

The initial amendments to this bill were around making sure that the owner-driver sector, the committee — the council that oversees that — and the forestry contractors council were relevant and up to date in terms of the naming of their membership. That was the major intent behind this, and I look forward in the future to talking further on the Owner Drivers and Forestry Contractors Act 2005 once we have commenced our current review of the act.