Rhiannon takes aim at 'slaves to the truck industry'

Greens senator launches broadside against governments investing more in roads than rail, accusing them of being "slaves to the truck industry"

By Brad Gardner | November 11, 2011

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon has launched a broadside against governments pumping more money into NSW roads than rail, accusing them of being "slaves to the truck industry".

The federal senator from NSW, who took up her post on July 1, claims the state's rail network has been left to decay while truck numbers have climbed.

While welcoming federal investment in NSW rail projects, Rhiannon says it is a fraction of what is going into big-ticket road items such as the Pacific Highway which she labels "a classic case of responding to the pressures of the powerful truck lobby".

"Northern NSW is set to become a giant truck stop between Sydney and Brisbane. The impact of truck freight is massive," Rhiannon says.

"In the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, the locals are also deeply troubled by the volume of freight being transported by trucks on the Great Western Highway. For too long, successive governments have been slaves to the truck industry, with disastrous results for the environment and road safety, and excessive working hours for truck drivers."

Rhiannon says governments need to invest more money in expanding the freight rail and high-speed rail network.

"Our rail services and rail lines have barely stepped out of the 19th century. We still have winding rail tracks…Our all-important rail links are very much the poor cousin when it comes to transport funding," she says.

Her comments came amid criticism of the carbon tax from the rail lobby, which has bemoaned the government’s decision to permanently exempt cars and offer a two-year reprieve to heavy vehicles.

"There is absolutely nothing in this package to encourage a reduction in transport emissions. As a pollution-reducing policy it is just ludicrous," Australasian Railway Association CEO Bryan Nye says.

Nye claims a carbon tax on both motorists and trucks would help alleviate traffic congestion in Australia’s cities. The government plans to apply the tax to trucking operators in 2014 through a reduction in the fuel excise of 6.85 cents.

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