The joint conference between the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association and the Livestock and Rural Transporters of Western Australia took place in Busselton WA, giving PowerTorque an opportunity to look at Rural Transport Out West.
The national conference for rural road transport travels the country every year, with the state associations taking turns to host the national get together, alongside their own state conference. This year it was WA’s turn and the venue was the town of Busselton on the south west coast of the state.
This year was different on one way, with a new national Executive Director in place, Rachel Smith, starting her new role with a major conference. She takes over after the decision by her predecessor Mathew Munro to move across to the role of CEO at the Australian Trucking Association.
Continuity is provided by Scott McDonald who stays on as President of the ALRTA during this period of change. He spoke to the conference about the events of the year and how the industry’s relations with governments have been developing.
“After years of dealing with one crisis after another and suffering from droughts, fires, floods, pandemics, and various economic shocks I would say that we’re finally getting back to normal,” said Scott. “Once again the biggest threats on our horizon are government regulation changes.
“Firstly, we’re facing massive changes in our industrial laws. The federal Labor government is progressing a broad reform agenda including same job/same pay employee-like work arrangements and specific reforms for the road transport sector. Our biggest fear is that a new authority will be established with similar powers and goals as the now defunct Road Transport Remuneration Tribunal. As many of you know, the RSRT issued a minimum payments order that almost wiped out owner drivers overnight, ensuring they were uncompetitive and tied up in red tape.”
In response to these proposals, the ALRTA has launched a submission to the government that includes 29 recommendations, designed to ensure that something like the RSRT cannot happen again. The association is seeking exemption for rural carriers and for all general carriers who will need to continue to operate freely as independent operators.
“We’ve met several times with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and key ministers,” said Scott. “We will also speak with cross-bench senators. While no decision has been made, we do expect some form of new regulation to be introduced this year.
“Secondly, federal Labor is consulting on options for phasing out live sheep export by sea. In June this year the ALRTA strongly supported the LRTAWA submission to the independent panel via a letter endorsing the state association position and making the following points: The proposed phase out of live sheep exports by sea is another threat to rural carriers, the government was not even consulting on the merits of phase out policy.
“While we cannot shy away from the fact that live sheep export practices were deficient, in the past, new rules introduced since 2018 have dramatically improved the trade. Average sheep mortality rates have since dropped by more than 80 per cent and are continuing to fall. In our view, the live sheep export by sea could and should continue under strict regulations. The trade is an important part of our sheep production system, it supports regional economies and helps to shore up domestic sheep prices.
“Our export rules in Australia have gone further than any other nation to protect animal welfare. If we discontinue the trade, it will be taken up by a less regulated competitor and the animal welfare will suffer. The majority of Australians are not opposed to meat production, transport, processing, consumption or live export, provided that reasonable animal welfare standards are met.”
The ALRTA is concerned that giving ground on live exports will embolden extreme animal activists who will have succeeded in hobbling an industry regardless of actual animal welfare performance. Australian livestock producers, transporters, handlers and processors would likely be subjected to increased trespass, harassment and disruption, in the hope that same similar outcome may be achieved across the entire livestock supply chain.
In coalition with the rest of the livestock industry the ALRTA says it intends to fight, what it regards as, a misguided government policy, because it is the right thing to do for the rural transport and animal welfare.
For more stories like ‘Rural Transport Out West’ – see below