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ATA CONVENTION: Truss could block ‘mischievous’ tax grabs

Coalition could block an increase in the road user charge after questioning its justification

By Brad Gardner

The Coalition may use its numbers in the Senate to block an increase in the road user charge after questioning its justification.

In a speech today at the Australian Trucking Convention, opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss vowed to protect the industry from “mischievous” tax grabs, criticising the Rudd Government’s proposal to increase the road user charge by 0.7 cents a litre.

Truss told delegates he is yet to be convinced the Government has invested enough funds into the road network.

“I am suspicious it looks like just half of the road building index,” Truss says.

Claiming the Rudd Government is attempting to slug the industry with another round of charges, Truss told delegates the Coalition would only support an increase if there was a demonstrable investment in the road network.

“If they want our vote to raise the excise then they will need to build rest stops,” Truss says.

During his speech, Truss told delegates the Coalition would build 500 rest areas over 10 years if elected.

However, one delegate questioned his promise, saying the Coalition had 12 years to invest in rest areas.

“You were in office for a number of years. Why didn’t we do it before, Warren?” the delegate asked.

The Government yesterday announced its intention to increase the road user charge from July 1 this year, which will reduce the fuel tax credit from 17.1 cents to 16.4 cent per litre.

Registration fees will also increase by 3.2 percent from July as part of an annual adjustment agreed to in February last year.

The National Transport Commission (NTC) says the increases are justified on the basis of a substantial increase in government expenditure on the road network.

According to the NTC, the charges will deliver key benefits for trucking operators.

“Revenue recovered through heavy vehicle charges contributes to building better and safer roads for improved higher productivity vehicle access,” the government body says.

The NTC is consulting industry stakeholders to gain their view on the proposed increases.

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