The Turnbull government has dubbed it a test for Bill Shorten, but the Labor leader is not shifting on the future of a contentious road safety tribunal.
The government will introduce legislation to parliament next week that aims to abolish the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, a creation of the Gillard government.
Initially it planned to wait until after an election, likely on July 2.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his employment minister Michaelia Cash are using the new timetable to pressure Labor.
“They made the mistake initially in introducing it and they can work with us to remove it,” Mr Turnbull told reporters at a truck stop in Perth on Wednesday.
Senator Cash said the vote next week would be a “test of leadership for Bill Shorten”.
But the opposition leader believes the government should sit down with the industry rather than “playing politics”.
“We are standing up for truck drivers, low-paid owner-drivers and for road safety of all motorists,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Mr Shorten is open to compromise, such as a longer implementation time, for new minimum rates of pay set by the tribunal. But he warned the government could be setting a precedent if it abolished the tribunal just because it didn’t like its decisions.
If the government can’t get sufficient Senate support for the tribunal’s abolition, it will move to freeze the new pay rates – which owner-drivers fear will put them out of business – until 2017. So far the government has five of the six crossbench votes it needs to abolish the tribunal.
Crossbencher Nick Xenophon has urged the government to “bloody well” test the numbers, admitting he voted for the tribunal that had since morphed into a mess.
* The government has set up a temporary hotline through the Social Services Department to provide financial advice for owner-drivers, 1800 007 007.