Push for rethink on heavy vehicle charges appears lost


Federal Government says re-examination of heavy vehicle charges not on the agenda for the next meeting of transport ministers

Push for rethink on heavy vehicle charges appears lost
Push for rethink on charges appears lost
By Brad Gardner | April 30, 2012

Transport ministers appear unlikely to reconsider heavy vehicle charges when they meet next month, despite a fresh round of industry claims operators are "going to be savagely overcharged".

An industry-led fight for the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) to rethink its March 21 vote to significantly increase registration and fuel fees seems to have fallen on deaf ears, with the Federal Government indicating most jurisdictions will stick by their decision.

A spokesman for Infrastructure and Transport Minister Anthony Albanese says the issue of heavy vehicle charges is not even listed to be discussed during the May SCOTI meeting.

"It’s not an item on the agenda for SCOTI," he says.

"It’s certainly not a formal agenda item."

The spokesman says the increase in heavy vehicle charges reflects the investment federal, state and territory governments have made in road infrastructure in recent years.

"That’s the reality. Road spending in the last four to five years has spiked significantly," he says.

Former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd set up the Nation Building Program to spend $36.4 billion on road and rail infrastructure over a six year period from 2008-09 to 2013-14.

But the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) claims governments will overcharge the industry by as much as 65 percent from July 1.

Based on figures used to calculate heavy vehicle charges, released under Freedom of Information, the ALRTA claims governments will recoup $34,858 from each double road train annually. It says the direct impact of the vehicles on the road network is $21,097 to $24,894.

"These previously secret figures show the bush is going to be savagely overcharged," ALRTA President John Beer says.

"Since governments announced their plan to impose a price-hike on the bush, rural transporters have been in an uproar."

The group further claims triple road trains will contribute $53,984 to government coffers, despite the true cost between $40,982 and $46,734.

"The so-called national charging system is meant to be a cost recovery system. These secret government figures show that the planned charges on road trains will go far beyond what’s reasonable," Beer says.

Western Australia and the Northern Territory broke ranks with the other jurisdictions last month by announcing they will introduce lower fees.

Queensland was in caretaker mode during the March vote, but Beer says it should join Western Australia and the Northern Territory "and veto this assault on rural Australia".

ATN has sought a response from Queensland on whether it will support the new charges, which will also add an extra 2.4 cents per litre to the fuel excise.

Although NSW has declared it will stand fast in its decision to increase charges, Beer wants Roads Minister Duncan Gay to follow the lead of South Australia Transport Minister Patrick Conlon.

A spokeswoman for Conlon says the minister has listened to the industry’s concerns and will take them to the SCOTI meeting.

The charges, which include a cut to the cost of registering A-trailers, are due to take effect on July 1 in most jurisdictions. The Northern Territory will cap fees at 3.7 percent, delay them by six months and reduce the price of A-trailers to match semi trailers.

Federal opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss has criticised the charging process and threatened to move a disallowance motion to prevent the increase in the fuel tax.

The government has expressed some bemusement over Truss’s reaction, pointing out it was the Coalition which approved the heavy vehicle charging scheme now in place.

"In government we have not changed the formula. All we have done is implement a policy put in frame by [former Transport Minister] Mark Vaile in 2007. I would assume that policy was approved by the then Howard Cabinet, of which Warren Truss was a member," the spokesman says.

"I do not remember a word of criticism being voiced by Warren Truss when his colleague Mark Vaile put in frame the policy we are now implementing."




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