Gillard 'respects' trucking but dodges carbon tax questions


PM says she respects the trucking industry amid repeated government refusals to detail how carbon tax will affect operators

Gillard 'respects' trucking but dodges carbon tax questions
Gillard 'respects' trucking but dodges carbon tax questions
By Brad Gardner | July 7, 2011

Prime Minister Julia Gillard has declared "respect" for the trucking industry as her government fends off repeated requests to detail how the carbon tax will affect operators.

The government has spent much of this week dodging Opposition questions and industry demands for answers after the announcement that a carbon tax would not apply to fuel for households, tradespeople and small businesses using light commercial vehicles.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) wants a guarantee that employee drivers and owner-drivers will be shielded, while Labor senators and former TWU officials Glenn Sterle and Alex Gallacher have also raised concerns about the impact the tax will have.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) has criticised the prospect of a dual system that could exempt high-earning individuals but slug small trucking fleets and owner-drivers earning considerably less.

"I certainly do respect the work of truck drivers. They do work very hard for this country," Gillard says.

Paterson MP Bob Baldwin used parliamentary proceedings yesterday to detail a conversation with the Newcastle-based JS Transport Group, which told him the tax would increase business costs by at least 5 percent.

"Goods are transported by trucks everywhere across Australia. Everything we use and everything we consume is transported by trucks," Baldwin says.

Wannon MP Dan Tehan earlier this week sought answers from Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten on what the carbon tax had in store for Allen Transport, which employs 22 people and operates 10 trucks in Tehan's electorate.

Shorten did not answer the question, instead reiterating the announcement that light commercial vehicles would be exempted.

Gillard told Hasluck MP Ken Wyatt to wait until the carbon tax package is unveiled on July 10 when he asked if trucks would be exempt.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott received the same treatment when he asked if a carbon tax on fuel for trucks would lead to increases in the price of fruit and vegetables.

"Further details about carbon pricing will be available in coming days and to the nation on Sunday. I will be very happy to take any question from Australian families and Australian businesses on the impact of carbon pricing," Gillard says.

Opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss seized on comments from TWU National Secretary Tony Sheldon who argued the tax would put financial pressure on trucking operators and contribute to road fatalities and injuries.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese responded: "I have waited more than two years for a question from the shadow minister and I say to him he can wait five more sleeps for an answer."

South Australian Senator Cory Bernardi asked Finance Minister Penny Wong to: "explain why the prime minister has refused to exempt truck drivers from petrol price increases as a result of the introduction of the carbon tax?"

"I am sure that the senator will be interested to see detail on some the issues which he has raised in this chamber. I would invite Senator Bernardi perhaps to consider that detail when it comes forward," Wong replied.

Senator Barnaby Joyce raised a point of order on relevance when Wong did not answer his question on how much diesel would cost trucking operators and if the tax would apply to companies of a certain size.

While it is lobbying for an all-or-nothing approach on the carbon tax, the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) believes the government will tinker with the industry’s fuel tax credit if heavy vehicles are not exempted.

According to a recent study by the Centre of International Economics, a $25 carbon tax will increase the price of diesel by 7 cents per litre. Operators will pay an extra 8 cents per litre under a $30 scheme. The government is expected to announce a starting price of between $20 and $30 a tonne.

While saying the increases will have an impact on operators, the CIE says higher prices are unlikely to differ beyond the fluctuations the industry currently deals with.

The government intends to introduce carbon tax legislation this year, with the scheme to begin on July 1, 2012.


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