The Turnbull government will announce plans to scrap a road safety tribunal as early as next week, after initially pledging to wait until after the election.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash will on Wednesday reveal plans to introduce legislation to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.
The government had originally committed to scrapping the tribunal if it was reinstalled at the federal election – which could be as early as July 2.
Instead, the coalition proposed to introduce a bill to delay until 2017 a controversial tribunal decision to impose minimum pay rates for owner-truck drivers in the meantime.
But the government has reversed the decision to wait until after voters go to the polls, convinced the situation needed to be fixed urgently.
The coalition will introduce two pieces of legislation – one to delay the wage decision and one to abolish the tribunal – when parliament is recalled for a special session on Monday.
Ms Cash is calling on Labor to support the abolition, labelling the legislation a test for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s leadership.
“This is an opportunity for the Labor Party to fix the mess they created,” she said in a statement to AAP.
The government had heard the public’s concerns loud and clear and was now convinced the situation was dire, a spokesman for Senator Cash told AAP.
But, Opposition Employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor said the decision would mean less safe roads for all Australians.
He accused Mr Turnbull “recklessly rushing” the decision through the parliament.
“Safety on our roads must be paramount, and Malcolm Turnbull has no regard for this,” Mr O’Connor told AAP.
While the coalition is confident the delay bill will pass, it is less certain it has the numbers to abolish the tribunal.
Without Labor’s support, the government would need six of eight crossbench votes in the upper house to pass the abolition.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said mum and dad operators were going broke under the tribunal and the government must do everything in its power to fix it.
“This is a catastrophe … you can go and see the hurt on these people’s faces and we know that we must act immediately,” he told ABC TV on Tuesday evening.
“It’s just mad.”
The government’s move comes after independent Senator Jacqui Lambie threw her support behind scrapping the tribunal, arguing a delay merely causes uncertainty for trucking families.
Another independent Senator, Glenn Lazarus, pledged to introduce his own abolition legislation if the government didn’t act prior to the election.
Fellow crossbenchers Bob Day, David Leyonhjelm and Nick Xenophon also want the tribunal gone.