National

Road tribunal would stop ‘carnage’: union

By AAP Newswire

Veteran truckie John Waltis has accused the federal government of having blood on its hands, lamenting the 50 funerals he's attended after deaths on Australian roads.

The Transport Workers Union delegate appeared before a Senate committee on Thursday, arguing for the reinstatement of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal which was scrapped in 2016.

In a career spanning more than 40 years, Mr Waltis concedes there's always been accidents but never at the current rate.

"The federal government right now have got blood on their hands," he told the inquiry in Sydney on Thursday.

Mr Waltis said a 2016 government-commissioned report showed the tribunal's orders would cut road deaths by 28 per cent.

A reduction of that size could have translated to stopping 51 of the 184 deaths across Australia involving trucks in the past year.

"That's as many funerals as I've been to that people would still be alive," he said.

TWU acting national secretary Michael Kaine wants companies held accountable for road deaths.

"Attention must be urgently refocused on a potential solution to deal with this carnage," Mr Kaine said.

The tribunal was abolished after fierce debate, with owner-drivers claiming increased regulation was putting them out of business.

Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the government rejected the claim it had blood on its hands.

Senator Abetz pointed to the suicides of owner-drivers stemming from hardship the tribunal's overbearing regulation had caused.

"I think that's an outrageous assertion," Mr Kaine angrily fired back.

Senator Abetz questioned the TWU's statistics, citing industry body NatRoad's finding in 93 per cent of road deaths involving trucks, the drivers were not at fault.

"All the statistics would suggest the vast majority - 90 per cent plus - is in fact not courtesy of the truck driver but other road users," he said.

In January, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the tribunal had nothing to do with road safety and was only about looking after the interests of the TWU.

Labor has committed to reinstating the powers of tribunal if it wins the next election.

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