Employment Minister Michaelia Cash says she’s been inundated with calls from grown men in tears worried about a new minimum wage for truckies.
The federal government wants to delay mandatory pay rates for owner truck drivers until January 1, 2017 amid concerns it will make small operators uncompetitive.
Ms Cash said she received hundreds of emails and phone calls from concerned owner operators, who she said would be priced out of the market and forced into unionisation.
“There are people out there who phone my office – grown men in tears – begging us to do something,” she told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“We now face tens of thousands of hard working Australians … either having their trucks repossessed or (having to) get rid of them because of this pay order.”
The Transport Workers Union (TWU) argued the new pay system helped deal with driver deaths and unsafe contracts.
But, Ms Cash said paying drivers more won’t lead to safer roads.
Legislation pushing back the start date of the pay rates will be introduced on April 18.
But it will not be linked to draft laws cracking down on union corruption due to be debated in the Senate.
Meanwhile, later on Tuesday Ms Cash said she was considering crossbench amendments to legislation to restore a building industry watchdog.
Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm proposed an eight-year sunset clause for a restored Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) as parliament prepares to debate government legislation from April 18.
“I am considering all of them [crossbench amendments] as a package to see how some may impact on others,” Ms Cash said at a press conference in Sydney.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insisted he was offering Australia the economic leadership it needed to deliver jobs and innovation.
Opinion polls turned against Mr Turnbull and business confidence was down, but the prime minister still believed his government was on the right economic path.
“The Coalition has policies to drive innovation and competition – from giving small and medium-sized businesses better protection against the “big guys” and taking on building industry lawlessness, to opening up big markets in Asia,” Mr Turnbull said at the Sydney press conference.
“All of those steps and many others are focused on driving economic growth.”