By David Bates 

To anyone who has ever said it is simply too hard to reform Australia’s hopelessly complex employment laws, I have just four words:

Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

It took the Turnbull government just days – yes, days – to comprehensively abolish this pointless tribunal and, in the process, void the Tribunal’s recent and completely outrageous ‘safe rates’ Order which crippled the livelihoods of Australia’s hard-working owner-operator drivers.

Let there be no doubt: this Tribunal was the Gillard government’s gift to the Transport Workers Union (TWU) in return for their support for (or, more accurately, their lack of protest against) the introduction of the Carbon Tax.

It appeared to exist for one purpose, and one purpose only: to make it harder for owner-operator drivers to compete against the nation’s big transport companies. Any why would they want to do that, you may reasonably ask? Simple: to help boost the TWU’s membership and clout. Establishing an entire tax-funded Tribunal for such a transparently partisan purpose is, quite frankly, a disgrace.

But the Turnbull government’s ability to swiftly abolish this Tribunal with the assistance of crossbenchers in the senate proves that when a sound case is made for IR reform, the people will support it.

And so now it is up to Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and Small Business Minister Kelly O’Dwyer to make the case for other long-overdue IR reforms. 

They can start by explaining to the Australian people that ours is the only nation on earth which persists with a complicated set of so-called ‘Awards’ which make employers’ lives a misery. There is a clear and obvious case to be made for their abolition and replacement with common, minimum conditions for all workers or – at the very least – for Awards to be made consistent with one another and the Fair Work Act 2009.

Next, they can make Australians aware that the Fair Work Ombudsman – the agency that is responsible for helping employers make sense of the Fair Work system – is not fit for purpose. They won’t get any argument from employers who are sick and tired of calling the Ombudsman’s optimistically entitled ‘Information Line’ only to receive a different answer to the same question each time they call.

And then they can make the case for meaningful reform of the Fair Work Commission – the tax-payer funded institution that made the headlines for all the wrong reasons thanks to its former Vice President, Michael Lawler. Australians rightly want to know how much longer the Commission will be largely presided over by men and woman who have never run a small business of their own.

If these arguments are put forward by the government with the same conviction, courage, and clarity as the case against the continued existence of the job-destroying Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, real reform can finally become a reality.