Coalition supports higher registration charges

By: Jason Whittaker

The Opposition will support the Government’s decision to increase registration charges for ACT heavy vehicles, but it wants a commitment

The Opposition will support the Government’s decision to increase registration charges for ACT heavy vehicles, but it wants a commitment the extra revenue will be invested in the road network.

The Coalition's decision means the the Government now has enough numbers in the Senate to pass the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill.

Despite refusing to back the Bill earlier this year, opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss says the Bill should be passed to promote national consistency.

The Bill will increase fees for ACT vehicles under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) as well as change registration charges for local heavy vehicles.

All jurisdictions except the ACT passed the registration increases earlier this year, which took effect on July 1.

Although B-double operators will be hit with a significant increase in charges, Truss says rigid heavy vehicle owners will benefit from a drop in fees.

In supporting the Bill, Truss noted it will deliver an extra $88 million to state and territory coffers.

"The Opposition expects that the states and territories will use this extra money appropriately. That is, they will spend the money on their roads," Truss says.

"It is essential that Australia’s truckies see a return on this charge."

Unless this happens, Truss has warned the Government recommending future increases, saying if the states expect more revenue then they must deliver for the industry.

"The Coalition serves notice that it will not support any future increases in registration fees unless there is clear evidence that the states are spending this extra money on roads and services for the trucking industry."

In arguing for greater investment in road infrastructure, Truss urged the Government to unlock the $70 million for rest areas and tachograph trials. The Government has ruled out spending the money unless higher registration charges and a proposal to index the fuel excise are passed in the Senate.

However, Truss labelled the stance as "blackmail", claiming the Government is more interested in tax grabs than increasing safety and productivity in the trucking industry.

"Threatening to block the $70 million package—inadequate as it is—should these bills not be passed in grubby politics and harms the safety of those who work on our roads," he says.

Truss also claimed the bills failed to address fundamental regulatory issues, which he argues need to be reformed. He cited fatigue management laws as "baffling" and "bizarre" because they differ across borders and impose rest times on drivers even though there are not enough rest areas.

"How can a government reasonably pass laws requiring trucks to stop at rest areas that do not exist?" Truss asked.

He also wants more action by jurisdictions on developing a B-triple route map, accusing NSW and Victoria of stifling moves to the higher productivity vehicles.

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