Albanese pledges more transparency over charges


Transport and infrastructure minister "will endeavour" to improve charges process, as Nats leader vows to defeat new trucking fee

By Brad Gardner

The Federal Government has pledged to improve the heavy vehicle charges process, but the move is unlikely to resolve opposition to a new road user charge.

Following criticism from the industry over the short notice of a rise in the road user charge, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese plans to give operators more time to adjust to any future increases.

Albanese made a decision to increase the charge by 0.7 cents on June 26, which the Victorian Transport Association claimed gave transport operators no time to factor the change in before the new financial year.

The group wants adjustments finalised by February each year and a decision made by March, with the latest increase reducing the fuel tax credit to 16.44 cents.

"We will endeavour to ensure the review process is concluded earlier than this year’s," a spokesman for Albanese says.

"We understand the industry needs the certainty."

But Nationals Leader in the Senate Barnaby Joyce has accused the Government of attempting to escape scrutiny by announcing the new charges a day after parliament ended for the long winter break.

"They do all these things under the cover of darkness so they aren’t held accountable," Joyce tells ATN.

The Senate will not resume until August 11, meaning it cannot vote on whether to disallow the charge. In the meantime, the 0.7 cent increase will remain.

Although opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss has not determined if the Coalition will support the rise, Joyce says the Government must stop increasing heavy vehicle charges.

"I won’t vote for it and if I can collect the numbers to block it, I will do everything in my power to do so," he says.

"You just can’t keep picking on the truckies, who keep the economy moving."

IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY
The latest rise coincides with an annual increase in heavy vehicle registration fees. The National Transport Commission (NTC) says the new charges are justified on the basis of government expenditure on the road network.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) agreed, but wanted the Government to delay the road user charge increase until January next year due to the impact the declining economy has had on the trucking sector.

The peak lobby group also called for all state and territory road expenditure data used to determine new charges to be publicly released.

According to the ATA, the on-road enforcement figures submitted to the process by at least one state did not add up, which had the potential to skew the results.

The Government will consider ways to improve the transparency process, but there has been no commitment to follow through on the ATA’s proposal for a national disclosure framework forcing governments to release all data.

"As a general principle, we support as much transparency as possible," the spokesman says.

Despite opposition to the 0.7 cent increase, Albanese says the trucking industry will benefit directly from the Government’s investment in the road network and heavy vehicle rest areas.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) was asked in April to consult stakeholders on the proposed increased to the road user charge as part of the 60 day consultation period the Government must commit to.

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