ATA tells Govt: accept changes to end charges debate

Rudd Government can end the road user charge debate by introducing transparent cost recovery, ATA argues

By Brad Gardner

The Rudd Government can end the road user charge debate by introducing transparent cost recovery, the peak trucking body argues.

As a senate inquiry prepares to hand a report to the Government on controversial transport Bills, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) says the industry will accept higher charges.

However, the Government must replace its proposal to index the road user charge with a disallowable motion.

Under this method, parliamentarians can scrutinise and debate any proposed increases, which the ATA claims is not possible if charges are linked to indexation.

"The Government has the chance to end the debate and put a system in place that everyone can work with," a spokesman for the ATA says.

"We are comfortable with the planned 1.3 cents increase [to the road user charge] provided our concerns are met."

If passed, the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill will increase the charge from 19.63 cents to 21 cents and permit the Government index it by regulation.

Despite Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese pledging consultation under this process, the ATA will not support the plan because it will not have access to the figures used to justify an increase.

"We think there needs to be amendments for a disallowable instrument. The regulations should provide a measure that can be disallowed by either house of parliament," the spokesman says.

The ATA also wants a 60 day consultation period once the Government announces any increase and to give the ATA time to review government figures and consult the industry.

The ATA will not back a theoretical model used by the National Transport Commission (NTC) in its heavy vehicle charges determination, calling it "demonstrably wrong" because it lacks real world figures.

Despite previously failing to gain support for rest areas, the ATA is continuing to push the issue by calling for at least 90 new facilities to be built each year.

To do so, it wants the Government to increase its Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program from $70 million to $100 million with funding matched by the states.

The $70 million program was announced earlier this year and is intended to be spent on rest areas, tachographs and road upgrades over a four-year period.

The package, however, will only be spent if the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill and the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill are passed.

The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee held an inquiry into both Bills after they were defeated.

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