The impact of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal’s (RSRT) decision to prescribe a minimum payments order on small business owner-truck drivers will be investigated by the small business watchdog.
The Federal Government called upon Kate Carnell, the ASBFEO, to conduct the inquiry which will be the first major undertaking in her new role.
Before coming into effect, Carnell warned the government that the payment order would have dire impacts on small business owners.
In April Carnell said, “This order has potentially drastic consequences for the upwards of 70,000 owner drivers who have mortgaged their homes in reliance on income from operating small businesses in the trucking industry. Recognising this, a number of applications were made by truck drivers, industry associations and others to defer the start date of the Order,” Carnell said.
Although the order was only instated for short period, the investigation will examine the overall effect of the RSRT’s Payments Order on owner-driver businesses, taking into account the period before and after its implementation and subsequent cessation. The inquiry will also consider the role small businesses can play in the development and operation of tribunals and other similar bodies.
“The anecdotal evidence we’re hearing of the financial difficulties small businesses continue to face as a result of the Payments Order is extremely concerning, so a formal investigation into the extent of the impact is certainly warranted,” Carnell said.
The inquiry will consult broadly with stakeholders to establish exactly how widespread situations of financial hardship are across the sector.
“Some owner-drivers are saying the battle to stay afloat has only just begun, as they struggle to stay on the road and try and re-coup the income they were forced to forgo during the weeks of uncertainty triggered by the RSRT, so we’ll be looking for feedback to determine just how prevalent these sorts of cases are,” Carnell said.
A joint statement by small business minister Kelly O’Dwyer and employment minister Michaelia Cash said the move is about determining the financial suffering felt by owner-drivers during the past few months.
“Despite the swift abolition of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, many owner truck drivers are struggling to recover from the effects of the Payments Order, the unfair rates it sought to introduce and the economically disastrous effect it had on their small business.”
Ms Carnell said she is particularly interested in hearing from small businesses who have been subjected to heavy-handed practices from creditors.
“I’ve been made aware of instances whereby people have resorted to borrowing money from family members in order to stay on top of their payments,” Carnell said.
“I once again encourage all creditors, including suppliers, banks and other financial institutions, to show some leniency towards owner-driver small businesspeople who may be struggling financially due to the recent upheaval,” she said.
Further particulars on the inquiry including submission details and reporting dates will be announced shortly.
Image source: ownerdriver.com.au