Change position or face senate defeat, Opposition says

Rudd Government told to back down on indexation and build more rest areas, or risk having controversial transport Bill rejected

Change position or face senate defeat, Opposition says
Change position or face senate defeat, Opposition says
By Brad Gardner

The Rudd Government is being told to back down on indexation and build more rest areas, or risk having its controversial transport Bill rejected in the Senate.

The Coalition has refused to budge on proposed amendments to the Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill, which aims to increase the road user charge by 1.3 cents and grant the Government the power to index it.

The office of the opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss has warned the Government against ignoring its amendments, with a spokesman saying to do so would be "the height of arrogance".

"That would be a mistake on its part," the spokesman for Truss says.

"If they are not prepared to look at anything we have changed then they may have a hard time getting the Bill through."

Truss wants the Government to remove any powers granting it to index the charge, as well as build 500 rest areas over 10 years.

The Opposition also wants state and territory governments to achieve "substantial harmonisation" of transport regulations before the Government can increase the road user charge and greater consultation between the industry and the National Transport Commission (NTC) on charges determinations.

The spokesman says the Rudd Government and state and territory jurisdictions have made a commitment to overhauling cross-border inconsistencies and must therefore deliver.

The Government has not yet committed to any changes, and will instead wait for the outcome of the debate on the Bill, which is scheduled to happen next week.

However, there are concerns the $70 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Package—to be spent on rest areas, tachograph trials and road upgrades—will be scrapped if the Government does not get its way.

It will only spend the money if the Bill, along with the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill, is passed.

Although the Coalition does not hold a majority in the Senate, it has the power to block legislation unless the Government gains the support of the Greens and the two independents, senators Steve Fielding and Nick Xenophon.

The Greens are still formulating a position on both Bills, with a spokesman for Senator Christine Milne saying the Greens expect to discuss the issue over the next week.

ATN contacted Fielding’s and Xenophon’s offices and is waiting for a response.

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