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Bills go to committee as ATA pushes rest area action

Bills proposing higher truck charges will be sent to a senate committee as ATA pushes for action on rest areas

By Brad Gardner

Bills calling for higher heavy vehicle charges will be sent to a senate committee as the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) increases efforts for greater action on rest areas.

The Rural and Regional Affairs Committee will scrutinise two bills supporting an increase in charges for ACT vehicles under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) and an indexation of the fuel excise.

The committee will report its findings on November 21 and will hold a public hearing on November 10.

A spokesman for the ATA says the peak trucking lobby will be making a submission which will oppose any indexation.

The ATA is, however, supporting the higher registration charges for national consistency. The ACT is the only jurisdiction that has not passed greater FIRS charges.

Although much of the politicians’ focus has been on economic woes, the ATA has spent the past week lobbying senators and ministers to support the construction of 90 rest areas a year in return for any future increase in the fuel excise.

“We have spoken extensively to senators and MPs this week,” the spokesman for the ATA says.

“We have highlighted the rest area issue and we are concerned about indexation.”

The association has also held two meetings with the office of Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese on the issue.

According to the spokesman, discussions have been good and Albanese is listening to the concerns raised by the trucking industry.

The ATA has proposed a set of amendments to the Rudd Government’s fuel excise legislation, which restrict its ability to freely increase charges.

Under the ATA’s proposal, the Government will need to justify its actions because increases can only go through if rest areas are built.

If accepted, ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says the amendments will result in 900 new rest areas by 2019.

The higher charges bills were sent to a committee based on the expectation a number of amendments will need to be made.

Senator Glen Sterle of the Labor Party will chair the committee, while Senator Christine Milne of the Greens will take the deputy position.

Senator Bill Heffernan, who is vocal supporter of the trucking industry and recently lambasted fatigue laws, will also be part of the committee.

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