Coalition Senate block could delay diesel excise hike

By: Jason Whittaker


The trucking industry could win a reprieve from even higher fuel prices with the Coalition vowing to block legislation to

The trucking industry could win a reprieve from even higher fuel prices with the Coalition vowing to block legislation to increase the diesel excise.

Shadow transport minister Warren Truss has also rejected the decision by state and federal transport ministers to index the excise amount, saying the Coalition would never have supported it.

The Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill and the Road Transport Charges (Australian Capital Territory) Repeal Bill have been introduced to parliament to enact the 1.37 cents per litre increase in the diesel excise agreed to by ministers last month. The increase is due to come into effect in January next year.

But Truss says the Coalition will use its numbers in the Senate to block the bill, effectively halting any increase in the diesel excise.

While the Coalition will lose is majority in the Senate come July, Labor will struggle to win enough support amongst minor parties to pass the legislation.

The Greens support higher truck charges, or a "polluter pays" principal as a spokesperson for the party told ATN.

Labor will need the support of Family First Senator Steve Fielding or incoming South Australian Senator-elect Nick Xenophon. Fielding has already said he won’t support legislation that pushes up grocery prices.

Truss says the decision to index the excise is a retrograde step, after the Howard Government abolished fuel excise indexation in 2001.

"After a seven-year absence, it is back for trucks and pegged to a formula that will lock in a greater tax take than you would get under the CPI," he told parliament yesterday.

"Not only do we have indexation but it is indexed to a formula that will deliver very much higher tax rates than would occur under the CPI.

"This is a highly significant decision by the new Labor government. In one of its first acts in office, it has introduced a new tax — a tax that will increase at a rate greater than the cost of living."

And Truss says trucking operators can’t be guaranteed the increased revenue will be spent on roads.

"Given the poor track record of the Labor states in project management, there are no guarantees that we will actually see any improvement in transport infrastructure arising from these higher charges," he says.

Truss is also concerned the legislation puts the power of setting road prices into the hands of the states. He says the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill will require the Commonwealth to always impose the charges agreed to by the Australian Transport Council to trucks registered by the Commonwealth under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS).

"This provision causes us some serious concern because, under it, the Commonwealth will lose its discretion to dissent from the ministerial council and will be unable to determine in its own right the charges that should apply to Commonwealth registered vehicles," he says.

"It seems extraordinary that an Australian government would bind itself to decisions made by other governments without giving itself any discretion to be able to make a separate determination in the national interest.

"Moreover, decisions in the Australian Transport Council are not always by consensus. In the case of a disagreement between jurisdictions it is possible for a majority decision to occur. In theory at least, it would be possible for the Commonwealth to be saddled with a decision which it did not support."

Federal Transport Minister Anthony Albanese’s office has not responded to questions put to it by ATN.

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook