Coalition to oppose fuel tax indexation

By: Graham Gardiner

The Federal Coalition will move to prevent the Rudd Labor Government from slugging the trucking and bus industries with an

The Federal Coalition will move to prevent the Rudd Labor Government from slugging the trucking and bus industries with an automatic fuel tax rise every year.

The Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Transport Minister, Warren Truss, says: "The Government wants to increase the road user charge, which is the fuel tax paid by the heavy vehicle industry, to cover costs imposed on the road system.

"The Government also wants to introduce regulations to enable the tax to go up automatically by about 7 percent a year.

"Under these arrangements, there would be no public consultation and no parliamentary scrutiny. Labor is addicted to higher taxes and there would be a new tax grab every year. This would be an extra annual charge on the trucking and bus industries and a higher burden on families who would have to pay more for their groceries as transport costs flow through."

In response, Truss says the Coalition will move amendments in Parliament to the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill 2008 to prevent the establishment of an automatic formula for excise rises. The key section of the amendments will unequivocally state that: ‘In determining the road user charge, the Transport Minister must not apply a method for indexing the charge.’

"We will also expect the charge setting arrangements to be transparent and open to scrutiny," Truss says.

"We are also moving to lock the federal, state and territory governments into promises made in February to build heavy vehicle rest areas. The Coalition believes at least 50 should be constructed each year on the national road network and plenty of money is collected from the industry to fund such works."

States are introducing new fatigue management rules requiring drivers to stop and rest but there are inadequate rest areas available, he says.

The Coalition also wants the states and territories to get on with the task of delivering uniform national transport laws and regulations. Their promises so far have been empty, according to Truss.

"One example of this inefficiency is the different treatment of the width of loads, as the states cannot agree on a harmonised approach. In Victoria, rigid trucks, semi-trailers and B-doubles may be loaded to a width of three metres, but in NSW the limit is 2.83 metres. Heaven help the farmer in Victoria who loads his truck with hay as wide as legally possible and the drives over the border.

"Last year uniform model legislation to deal with heavy vehicle driver fatigue was approved by the Australian Transport Council, but not all states and territories have agreed to the laws. NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia implemented the new laws on 29 September, with Tasmania and the Northern Territory coming later - the ACT and Western Australia will not introduce the laws at all. We must do better," he says.

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