ATA pushes new rest area proposal

ATA pushes plan to deliver 350 rest areas , but will need multi-million dollar commitment from all governments

By Brad Gardner

The peak trucking lobby is pushing a plan to deliver 350 rest areas over four years that will require a multi-million dollar commitment from federal, state and territory governments.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) wants Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese to increase his proposed $70 million heavy vehicle safety and productivity package to $100 million.

Furthermore, the ATA wants state and territory jurisdictions to match the funding, which is to be delivered over four years.

Under the ATA’s plans, funding will be reviewed in 2011 and consideration given to extending it to 2013.

"If these steps are taken it would deliver 350 extra rest areas over four years, which would be on track to deliver the 900 rest areas that we believe are needed by 2019," the ATA’s Bill McKinley says.

McKinley made the comments in front of a senate inquiry into a Bill that aims allow the fuel charge to be indexed by regulation.

The ATA previously tried to bind the Government to building rest areas in return for passing any legislation to increase charges. However, the ATA says its new proposal can be achieved without amending the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill.

Despite previously backing a Coalition proposal for 500 rest areas to be built, the ATA is now pushing for 900.

It claims any decision to build more rest areas will also generate economic returns in regional areas in terms of employment and expenditure.

McKinley says rest stops are also "fertile ground" for public-private partnerships because the Government can fund parking while the private sector can build a service station or restaurant facilities.

During the hearing, McKinley reiterated the industry’s opposition to indexation.
If passed, he says the Government will not consult the industry and will simply increase charges without scrutiny.

He says the industry supports meeting the Government on a yearly basis to decide whether an increase is warranted based on what the Government has invested in the road network.

"If you have yearly consultations, if the formula looks wrong, if the figures start to look wrong, you have consultations, fix them, put them into parliament and senators like yourself look at the results and will either let it pass without comment or do something about it," McKinley told the inquiry.

Under regulation, the Government can submit its proposal to the Senate. It will decide whether or not to support the charge. The industry or opposition MPs will not have access to the figures the Government uses.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese has previously ruled out any annual increase without consultation.

ATN is seeking comment from Albanese’s office.

The ATA has based its rest area proposal on extrapolating a rest area audit's findings conducted by AusRoads.

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