Indexation may go if industry supports one-off increase

Government may scrap plans to index the fuel charge if the trucking industry accepts a one-off increase

Indexation may go if industry supports one-off increase
Indexation may go if industry supports one-off increase
By Brad Gardner

The Federal Government may scrap plans to index the fuel charge if the trucking industry accepts a one-off increase.

A source close to the Government claims Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese is losing interest in trying to pass a regulation to allow him to index the excise at will.

According to the source, the Government will alter its position if the industry accepts a 1.3 cent increase in the fuel charge from 19.63 cents to 21 cents.

"If they get it from 19 cents to 21 cents then they will fold on indexation," the source claims.

ATN is seeking comment from Albanese’s office.

During a senate inquiry into a government Bill to introduce the power to regulate indexation, trucking representative groups including the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) told the senators the industry supports an increase.

"No-one is really worried about the 1.3 cents as much, as they are worried about the impact of these new fatigue laws, except for Western Australia because they did not vote for them," ALTA Executive Director Luke Fraser says.

The ATA’s Bill McKinley told the inquiry the industry will not oppose the increase so long as a number of other concerns are met regarding indexation, transparency and rest areas.

During the hearing, McKinley told the senators they should be concerned by Albanese’s intention to increase the fuel charge by regulation because the Government is attempting to avoid scrutiny.

He claims the decision to index the excise stems from administrative convenience. If the Bill to install regulation is passed, the Government only needs to gain the approval of the Senate.

There will be no requirement for it to consult the industry or grant it access to the figures used to justify an increase.

Albanese has previously rejected concerns the Government will automatically increase the charge, saying he will consult stakeholders and base any increase on infrastructure costs.

But Senator Glenn Sterle, a former truck driver, has questioned the industry’s acceptance of the 1.3 cent increase, saying it has traditionally not been proactive in accepting higher charges.

He claims the ATA has been at the forefront of opposing any changes to current charges despite the fact they have not been updated for eight years.

"I found with my experience that unless the industry is whacked with a legislative bat they do not like to spend any extra money than what they have to," Sterle says.

However, McKinley told the committee the industry now understands it must pay for the damage it causes.

"It would be fair to say that the industry’s views on this issue have matured over time," he says.

However, Senator Julian McGauran criticised the industry’s stance against indexation because the ATA wants at least 90 rest areas built a year but will not support automatic increases to the road user charge.

"Your organisation now comes before us and is willing to pay for the truck stops as well, but you then make a grand stand on indexation. I would have thought that it weakens your argument," McGauran says.

If legislation allowing regulation is passed, McKinley claims the industry will be hit with a 7 to 8 percent increase each year based on the increase in infrastructure costs.

The Senate is conducting an inquiry into the Interstate Road Transport Charge Amendment Bill and Road Charges Legislation Repeal and Amendment Bill 2008.

The first Bill, if passed, will allow the ACT to increase registration charges for vehicles under territorial jurisdiction as well as the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS).

The committee will report on its findings on November 21.

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