Pricing D-Day looms, but industry resigned to higher charges

By: Jason Whittaker

The impending vote to raise registration and fuel charges is all but a done deal according to the trucking industry,

The impending vote to raise registration and fuel charges is all but a done deal according to the trucking industry, which has "no confidence" in the ministers rejecting the proposal.

Furthermore, South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) Chief Executive Steve Shearer says the respective governments will hoard the increased revenue gained from pushing up charges. This is despite the industry calling for investment in infrastructure to offset the cost of the proposed hikes.

As part of the Australian Transport Council (ATC), Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese will meet with his state and territory counterparts on Friday to vote on whether or not to raise charges, which will see B-triple operators pay more than $20,000 a year in registration.

Despite ministerial rhetoric over concerns about the impact of pushing up running costs, Shearer says the industry is "waiting with baited breath" for the result of the vote.

But due to Labor being in power at a federal, state and territory level, Shearer says it is unlikely any transport minister will vote against the proposal. He says an opposing party member would have been able to influence the vote because, by voting against the hikes, they would have been able to accuse other ministers of a grab for more revenue.

The situation is also helped by the fact no state or territory government will be facing its constituents in the coming months, according to Shearer.

"There is nobody heading for a state election now, whereas in 2006 we had the South Australian Government heading for an election," he says.

"That didn’t cause Pat Conlon to change his mind; it only caused him to sit down and listen very carefully to us."

But the industry appears to have been ignored in its calls for the increased costs to be invested in much-needed road infrastructure.

"Any South Australian at the moment should be terrified at the prospect of whether or not we are going to get sufficient funding for infrastructure," Shearer says.

"All the signals coming out of the Rudd Government at the moment are that, in the name of responsible fiscal management, they are tightening up."

Shearer says it is also questionable whether other states or territories will receive funding if the charges are passed.

He has also taken aim at claims by Shadow Minister for Transport Warren Truss who this week spoke out against the proposals.

"One of the frustrations of course is that the people who were in government weren’t talking about it suddenly decide that now that they are in opposition they will come out and talk about it and try and gain mileage," he says.

According to Shearer, Truss, as Minister for Transport in 2006, was the last to vote against a proposal to increase registration and fuel prices.

"The reality is that when Warren Truss was the minister back in 2006, I wrote a letter to The Australian saying Warren Truss has got his head in the sand and doesn’t understand the consequences for the trucking industry’s customers," Shearer says.

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