Carbon tax could cost truck drivers $200 a week says TWU

Unease palpable amongst Labor supporters over impact of higher diesel prices

By Rob McKay | July 6, 2011

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s insistence that petrol will avoid being part of carbon tax has led to heightened concern from traditional Labor supporters inside and outside Parliament.

The concern centers on the price impact on diesel and the trucking industry.

With details to be unveiled on Sunday, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) has made plain it will not support the Federal Government on the issue if Safe Rates is ignored.

The union has also highlighted its frustration over another aspect of government decision-making - the cattle export ban.

It says truck drivers and small trucking operators could be facing charges of up to $200 a week on fuel alone with no way to recover the cost.

"If the driver is left to carry the can on increases to fuel due to a price on carbon, then drivers will be put under more economic pressure on the roads," Federal Secretary Tony Sheldon says.

"It is a tough industry where drivers do not have any avenue to recover costs, including rises in fuel prices, and it is major clients, like retailers including Coles and Woolworths, who set the price.

"Coles and Woolworths are responsible for three in every 10 truck movements on our roads.

"They have the power to set prices in the industry and you can be sure they will not be cutting into their own profits.

"There needs to be a system of Safe Rates, so drivers are not forced into pushing themselves longer and harder on the road in order to break even.

"As it stands, our figures show a driver could be slugged with an extra $150 to $200 a week, depending on their work.

"They will be working the equivalent of an extra day a week in a six or seven day week to make the same wage they are on now, and that is not good enough.

"You don’t punish people already on the edge – it’s just not the Labor way. And Governments of yesterday would not have put the welfare of cattle higher on the agenda that truck drivers."

A spokesman for Woolworths would only say that "given the details of the carbon tax have not been announced, we will not add to speculation".

A response from Coles was awaited at deadline today.

Meanwhile, South Australian Labor Senator and former senior TWU official Alex Gallacher has insisted truck drivers should be compensated for any lift in fuel prices as a result of the measures.

Gallacher, who was
not available
for comment at deadline today,
told the Adelaide Advertiser earlier that smaller trucking operators and owner-drivers would be forced to either cut corners or go to the wall without it.

And the nominally pro-Left Sydney Morning Herald has taken a swipe at the confusion surrounding the fuel policy, asking some pointed questions already being asked in the industry.

"How small does a business have to be to qualify? Large trucks will still apparently pay the tax. Presumably buses will, too. What about firms which run a fleet of small vans or utilities? Will a small local courier firm be exempt, but a nationwide operator have to pay? If so, how is that fair?"

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