ATA pushes rest area issue as senate inquiry begins


ATA pushes for more action on rest areas as inquiry begins into proposal to index fuel excise

By Brad Gardner

The trucking lobby is continuing to push for more action on rest areas as a senate inquiry begins into a proposal to index the fuel excise.

The Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) Transport and Economics Committee has backed a submission to the inquiry, which will report to the Government on its findings on November 20.

The Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is responsible for looking at the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill 2008, which aims to increase the excise to 21 cents as well as allow the Government to index it.

The committee is also looking at the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill, which if passed will increase charges for ACT vehicles under the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) and heavy vehicles registered in the territory.

The ATA is opposing any indexation, and its submission will reiterate its position that any increases should be linked to the construction of rest areas.

The ATA recently proposed at least 90 rest areas a year should be built in return for any annual increase. The Opposition called for 50, saying this figure will bring rest areas in line with national guidelines.

A spokesman for the ATA declined to comment on the details of the submission, saying it is in the hands of the inquiry which is now responsible for making it public.

The ATA has been a vocal critic of plans to index the excise, with Chairman Trevor Martyn claiming it will result in annual increases between 7 and 9 percent.

"The way the Bill is structured it will go up each year," the spokesman claims.

He says the Government may only need to introduce a regulation once to the Senate because it may have a clause stating increases for a specified number of years.

Under this method, the Government will be able to increase the excise without consultation which the ATA will not support, according to the spokesman.

"This is where our position respectfully differs," he says.

However, he says the ATA has applauded comments from Albanese who says he will consult with the industry before proposing any increase.

"That is an extremely welcome commitment," he says.

"The Bill as drafted does not reflect Minister Albanese’s comments.

The ATA wants judgement not a mathematical formula applied to any increase. The spokesman claims computer modelling is not sufficient, saying the industry must have access to government figures and have the ability to scrutinise them and make submissions.

"Those sorts of requirements don’t make it impossible to increase the road user charge," the spokesman says.

Under the Government’s method, it will not be required to release the formula used to justify increases.

The ATA has released its figures to the Government to show why it wants 90 rest areas a year and why it thinks the excise will rise by 7 to 9 percent under the Government’s plans.

"These figures are known to the Government and no-one has disputed them to the best of my knowledge," the spokesman says.

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