Transport bodies eye cost recovery battle

ALTA and QTA look to use two-year 'breathing space' wisely while Caltex backs use of lower fuel tax credit

By Rob McKay | July 11, 2011

The Australian Livestock Transporters Association (ALTA) has called for the industry to focus on gaining carbon tax protections similar to those it gained upon the introduction of the GST in the 1990s.

Executive Director Philip Halton believes a new taxes and charges strategy is needed.

"The fuel tax credit is running down, the carbon price is coming in, and governments are talking about completely overhauling how road charging and road funding works," Halton has told his members.

"Meanwhile, industry’s made no progress on stamp duty reform for years, and the States will use the arrival of the National Regulator to try to close down the FIRS scheme.

"Our industry needs a strategy for our future, and we need it pretty soon."

He points out that the carbon tax announcement contained nothing to help livestock transport firms pass on costs.

"If we can’t change the fuel slug that’s coming, then industry should fight to get other protection put in place to help transport operators pass the costs on.

"Exactly that kind of protection was in place when the GST came in. It needs to be put in place for this carbon price."

Halton thanked independent MP Tony Windsor for his efforts in gaining an exemption for petrol and some breathing space before the diesel price rise kicks in.

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) also viewed the two-year breathing space as valuable, saying it was an opportunity to "get our house in order and ensure that we are able to pass on these costs when the time arrives".

"We will be particularly involved in responding to the Government’s announcement that the Productivity Commission will conduct a review of existing fuel excise arrangements across all industries," the QTA says.

The industry will continue to argue that there are a range of complementary measures which government can introduce to assist industry in contributing to a clean energy future.

Specifically, it highlighted:

· support for the increased use of larger trucks, including the external review of access decisions made by local governments

· the rebalancing of heavy vehicle registration charges to encourage operators to use larger trucks

· further research and development into reducing aerodynamic drag and tyre resistance, which together account for 75-85 percent of the total engine power use in semitrailers and B-doubles

Meanwhile, fuel supplier and refiner Caltex warns the government that the lack of transport options means a carbon price will have little or no impact on the driving behaviour of motorists and, as a result, minimal impact on fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.

"There are more effective ways to reduce emissions from light vehicles," the company says.

"These include investment in public transport, road infrastructure and improved urban design, as well as encouraging the manufacturing of greener vehicles in Australia, incentives for consumers to purchase lower carbon vehicles and setting vehicle carbon dioxide emission standards."

But it also appeared to support the move away from the way fuel for heavy machinery, including vehicles, is taxed.

"Given the Government’s decision to apply a carbon price to heavy vehicles and other business users of petroleum fuels, the mechanism to apply the price through a reduction in fuel tax credit appears to be transparent and administratively simple," Caltex says.

"It avoids the complex permit system proposed under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and its costly churn of permits."

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