End the diesel excise and stop building new roads: Greens

By: Jason Whittaker

With the impending federal Budget less than a month away, the Greens are joining other environmental groups in calling for

April 15, 2008

With the impending federal Budget less than a month away, the Greens are joining other environmental groups in calling for an end to "perverse policies" such as the diesel excise.

Along with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Greens are arguing the trucking industry can do without the 18.51 cents per litre credit.

A spokesman for the Greens says the party will be stepping up efforts in the coming weeks to convince the Government of the environmental, as well as economic, benefits of scrapping the excise before it hands down its first budget on May 13.

Under the party’s "polluter pays" principle, the Greens want the credit converted into a carbon tax, whereby the industry will pay a certain amount of money based on how much carbon is in the fuel they use.

"Perverse policies that essentially encourage greater use of fossil fuels should be removed in favour of a direct price on carbon," the spokesman says.

But despite the industry arguing that scrapping the excise will result in higher grocery prices, the spokesman says it is a consequence consumers will have to bear.

"That’s what it’s about," he says.

"If the prices of certain goods which have to be transported in a certain way go up, then consumption patterns will change."

The Greens’ call to turn the excise from a credit into a tax coincides with its proposal to end road projects.

The spokesman dismissed claims made by the industry that governments must spend more on upgrading roads and constructing new routes in order to increase freight efficiency.

"Everywhere in the world where you increase the size of roads, it taks a couple of years and then you get gridlock again," he says.

"That’s why we don’t believe road building is a long-term solution," he says.

As such, the Greens want the Federal Government to divert funding for roads to the rail sector in order to support moves to carry more freight by rail.

But while accepting that trucks will still need to service metropolitan areas, the spokesman says as a trade-off trucks operating in CBDs should all be equipped with hybrid engines.

However, the Greens have not done any economic modelling to determine the cost of such a proposal and what impact this may have on the industry.
"We haven’t looked at that in detail," he says.

The Greens are also pushing for greater investment in alternative fuels, such as second generation biodiesel.

Unlike first generation biofuel which uses food products, the new method blends fuel out of wood chips and grass clippings, which the Greens spokesman says results in usable transport fuel.

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