Williams whacks Albo over truck charges

Senator rubbishes government plan to increase road user charge, labelling it a "money grab"

Williams whacks Albo over truck charges
Williams whacks Albo over truck charges
By Brad Gardner | June 29, 2009

The Rudd Government’s push to increase heavy vehicle charges threatens to come unstuck, as a Coalition senator tries to rally support to defeat the "money grab".

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese last week agreed to a recommendation from the National Transport Commission to raise the road user charge by 0.7 cents from July 1.

The decision will cut the fuel tax credit to 16.44 cents, but Nationals Senator John Williams says he will not support the recommendation when it goes to the Senate.

Williams, who led the charge against a government effort to impose the Bluecard scheme nationally, will urge opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss to vote against the move.

"I’m very reluctant to allow the Government to raise it [the road user charge] to 21.7 cents, especially in these economic times," he says.

"To me, this a money grab out of the truckies pockets."

A spokesman for Truss says the Opposition has not yet decided whether to vote against the increase, while Independent Nick Xenophon will look at what impact the charges will have on the industry before making a decision.

Unless it gains the support of Coalition senators, the Government must rely on the Greens, Family First and Xenophon to pass legislation.

Instead of cutting the credit, Williams wants the Government to invest more of the revenue from the 38 cents a litre fuel excise into the road network.

Williams says too much of the excise is disappearing into consolidated revenue, leaving the trucking sector to foot the bill.

Following the 1.3 cent increase to the road user charge in January this year, Williams says the Government is already collecting enough money from trucking operators.

But the NTC says the 0.7 cent increase is justified on the basis of government investment in the road network between 2001 and 2008.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) supported the rise, but wanted the Government to delay the new charges for six months.

"This spending got results for the trucking industry, with major road projects completed in every state and territory. The bill is due, and we’re being asked to pay our share," ATA Chairman Trevor Martyn says.

Despite the increases, Albanese says the industry will benefit from greater investment in the road network and heavy vehicle rest areas.

The rise will coincide with a 3.2 percent increase in registration charges, adding almost $3000 to B-double registration and $240 to semi-trailer fees.

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