Welcome to Owner Drivers Australia!
Website officially launched on 26 April 2006
For too long, owner-drivers in Australia have had our real issues ignored. It's about time a single, national association was created to look after our interests.
There is a lot happening which affects owner-drivers:
- The Victorian Government has introduced new legislation for owner-drivers. It is creating a code of conduct. Yet owner-drivers are not specifically represented on the committee for drawing up the code.
- Western Australia has announced that it will develop owner-driver legislation. But any processes of consultation are unknown.
- The Federal Government is introducing an Independent Contractors Act that will secure the right of people to be self-employed. Yet some people are saying that owner-drivers should be excluded from the Act. If we are excluded, we fear for our tax status as self-employed people.
- In NSW, laws that declare owner-drivers to be employees are likely to be affected by the Independent Contractors Act. What will replace the NSW laws?
- Work safety laws are becoming tougher across Australia. We need consistency in national laws for owner-drivers, so we are clear where we stand.
This is a time of great uncertainty for owner-drivers. We must look after ourselves because no-one else will.
We have stood up for ourselves in the past! Let's do it again
We did get together in the past to look after our common interests. When the Personal Service Income Tax laws came in, we fought to make sure we had fair tax treatment. We won. But we didn't stay together to fight for our other common interests.
What we want
Owner-drivers are small businesses. We are most often businesses of one person. We are our own business and we operate under commercial law. We have rights and want those rights protected.
Our rights as businesses include:
- Freedom to negotiate our own contracts.
- Fair, proper contracts that protect us all.
- Quick/fair legal processes to fix any commercial disagreements.
- Quality work safety laws that stop the small percentage of irresponsible drivers damaging the reputation of all of us. Keep our roads safe!
- Consistent business laws applied across the country for all of us.
- A secure right to be our own boss.
In working to secure these business rights, we operate on a simple principle that we are all in this together! We have common cause across our industry to ensure good, consistent laws and regulations that treat everyone the same and with fairness. No matter which part in the industry you operate---short or long haul, bike or truck, taking orders, organizing deliveries, managing finance, collecting debts or maintaining vehicles---we all have a single focus: good quality delivery of goods to our clients.
Starting up. What to expect
Owner Drivers Australia has just been formed.
- Our Website is new and will develop rapidly.
- We are networking strongly to attract members and raise funds. We have begun with an initial membership of several hundred with people drawn from across Australia. We will keep you informed as membership grows.
- Our immediate task is to focus on the Independent Contractors Act. This is happening in May 2006.
- We must also seek input into the development of the Victorian code of practice .
- We will quickly develop a draft national code of practice for discussion. We will lobby to have a nationally consistent code of practice adopted.
- We will push to eliminate inconsistency in road rules for owner-drivers. Safe driving is our highest priority.
- Work safety laws for owner-drivers across Australia are a mess. They need to be cleaned up and separated from industrial relations agendas. Clear, top quality, national, work safety laws rank as our equal highest priority, along with safe driving.
- Owner-drivers need quality contracts. We will develop template contracts that are fair to all parties.
Working with others
There are others who have been fighting for independent contractor/small business rights. We have been in contact with a couple of groups and they have been happy to help us in our establishment phase.
Small Business Reform Group (NSW)
SBRG formed a few years ago after the local regional office of the NSW WorkCover Authority conducted audits of small businesses.
After the audits, a swag of small businesses who used self-employed subcontractors received massive workers' compensation bills, some amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. It put several businesses out of business. The WorkCover Authority had targeted self-employed people who had subcontracted work to other self-employed people. The Authority claimed that workers' compensation premiums should have been paid on the subcontractors.
But the Authority won't insure self-employed workers, and even if premiums are paid, it won't guarantee to cover claims. It's a 'no cover-insurance scheme'. SBRG was formed after local meetings saw hundreds turn up. SBRG began lobbying, forcing the government to conduct a review.
SBRG is just a group of independent contractors who have organized themselves. They are an inspiration to other independent contractors.
They have a Website worth checking out at: www.sbrg.net
Independent Contractors of Australia
This organization has been around for about five years. They have a very extensive Website on issues which affect independent contractors at: www.contractworld.com.au
They have a lot of information on the proposed Independent Contractors Act.
Last year (2005), ICA produced a detailed discussion paper on owner-driver issues. They have given us permission to make their discussion paper available on our Website. It's a good starting point for considering our issues. Click here for the document [PDF].
In this, our start-up phase, we approached ICA for assistance. They agreed. Consequently, we have formed our own committee and are working under the ICA organisational umbrella for a period of time. This has made registration, accounting, Website construction, membership management and so on, easier. It has also given us access to ICA's vast network, information database and lobbying expertise. At this stage, we are formally a division of the ICA organisation, but operating as an independent subcommittee.