ATA to argue against indexed excise to Senate inquiry

By: Jason Whittaker

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will focus its efforts on convincing the Senate to reject an indexed fuel excise after

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) will focus its efforts on convincing the Senate to reject an indexed fuel excise after the Government ignored a proposal to stop annual increases.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is conducting an inquiry into the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill and is due to report on its findings on November 21.

The ATA’s Transport and Economics Policy Committee will hold a teleconference on November 3 with the Senate inquiry to discuss the ATA’s views on the Bill.

The inquiry will also hold public hearings on November 10.

Although the Rudd Government declined to accept a proposal to build 90 rest areas in return for increasing the road user charge, the peak trucking body claims it has managed to highlight the rest area issue among the nation’s decision makers.

"The ATA and its member organisations have succeeded in focusing Parliament’s attention on the importance of building more truck rest areas and the danger of indexing our fuel tax," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

"We will carefully consider the arguments put forward in the debate this week, as we prepare to take the industry’s case to the Senate."

The Government also rejected a Coalition rest area proposal, which was based on the ATA’s.

Opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss wanted 50 rest areas built a year in return for any increase in the excise. He also wanted Infrastructure Australia to audit the number of rest areas to determine if the minimum had been built before any changes are made to the excise.

However, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says linking rest area construction to increasing charges is "bad policy" because the Government has already shown a commitment to building more facilities and it is not Infrastructure Australia’s job to audit rest areas.

He also called the ATA and the Opposition’s proposal "impractical".

Albanese also rejected concerns the Government will be able to increase the road user charge free of scrutiny or accountability.

"This parliament would have to consider the nature and detail of the regulation," he says.

"I am certainly committed to ensuring there is proper consultation with industry about the nature of that regulation."

Albanese says any increase will be determined by infrastructure costs and whether the Government is recouping enough from the industry for its impact on the roads.

The ATA, however, does not trust the process because it will not have access to the figures that show infrastructure costs and the revenue gained from taxes.

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