OUR SAY: Dispute them but don't dismiss them

Trucking operators might want to dispute the Greens over their transport policies. But they would be wrong to dismiss them

By Brad Gardner | July 27, 2010

It was always bound to happen. Like an anniversary marked out in advance on the calendar, the Greens again popped up like they do every now and then to call for more costs to be heaped on the trucking industry.

During the lead-up to federal budget, they demand an end to the diesel rebate. During talk of emissions trading they oppose any compensation to the trucking industry to offset cost rises.

Now the Greens want a significant increase in heavy vehicle registration fees – to more than $23,000 a year to be correct – to encourage more freight to be carried by rail.

And once again sections of the trucking industry pointed out that Australia needs heavy vehicles because rail cannot carry the freight task alone.

Anyone else get the sense of déjà vu? Perhaps, but this time things might be different.

If you’re following the election campaign and listening to the pundits, the Greens are on the cusp of gaining the balance of power in the Senate.

And that has implications for trucking operators.

In the past the industry could criticise the Greens, dismissing the notion their policies would be introduced because the party was a minor player on the political scene.

But Bob Brown and his crew are gaining popularity in the electorate and if they occupy enough seats in the upper house after August 21 – as expected – then things will change.

The Greens will have the power to defeat bills, meaning the government of the day might need to strike deals to ensure its agenda is not derailed.

And you can bet the Greens will use the opportunity. Senate candidate Lee Rhiannon has already said road pricing reform is long overdue. And transport is on the Greens’ list of things to tackle.

Sure, it is doubtful Labor or the Coalition will agree to slug operators with $23,000 registration bills, but they might be willing to give a little leeway on other issues if it means getting legislation passed.

Reductions to the diesel rebate? Taking money from road projects to spend on rail and public transport initiatives? Mandating quotas on how much freight can be carried by a truck? Accelerating the introduction of mass-distance-locating charging? Implementing a congestion charge?

Who knows, but the Greens’ policies on trucking have been clear for a while. Only this time, they might finally get to implement some of them.

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