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Truss gives Albanese ultimatum on truck charges

Opposition threatens disallowance motion against scheduled increases to FIRS and fuel charges unless the government reduces them

By Brad Gardner | June 25, 2012

The Opposition has issued an ultimatum on heavy vehicle charges, threatening to move a disallowance motion against planned increases unless the Federal Government rethinks its stance.

Opposition spokesman on transport Warren Truss (pictured) has called for the government to limit increases to the fuel excise and the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS) to 5.7 percent.

The nation’s transport ministers earlier this year voted to increase the fuel excise by 10.4 percent to 25.5 cents per litre on July 1, while registration fees for some heavy vehicles will increase by more than 20 percent.

Under Truss’s plan, the fuel excise will hit 24.4 cents per litre when the new financial year begins.

“If [Infrastructure and Transport Minister] Anthony Albanese doesn’t come to the party we will have no choice but to move to disallow the increased charges to protect truck drivers from unfair, arbitrary increases in registration and fuel excise costs,” Truss says.

The Opposition has sided with the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) in accusing the National Transport Commission (NTC) of using outdated figures to calculate the latest round of truck charges.

Pointing to figures from the ATA, Truss claims the industry will be overcharged $700 million unless changes are made. The ATA has revised its claim since receiving updated information from the NTC and now says the industry will be paying an extra $1.1 billion.

“Making matters worse, usual consultation has, this year, been shambolic. Documents provided to industry were later altered before being given to ministers for a decision. The industry was not provided with detailed information on the model used by the NTC or the input data and assumptions underpinning them,” Truss says.

He claims 25 percent of government expenditure on flood recovery efforts has been added to heavy vehicle charges despite the NTC recommending against it.

Truss took the figures from the ATA, which says operators will wear $220 million of the $834.3 million spent rebuilding infrastructure after floods.

“In addition, $144 million was unexpectedly added to the amount to be collected because of a re-calculation of past obligations under the model,” Truss says.

A spokesman for Truss says the $144 million figure comes from the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA). ATN has attempted to contact the group.

A spokesperson for Albanese has rejected the existence of a $144 million surcharge.

“The fact is Mr Truss is simply wrong,” the spokesperson says.

The spokesperson says the government is implementing a policy put in place when the Coalition was in power.

“We have now reached the absurd situation whereby the federal Coalition is criticising us for having done nothing more than retaining and implementing their policy,” the spokesperson says.

“If Mr Truss truly believes what he’s now claiming then why as a senior Cabinet minister in the former government did he support the policy which we are now simply implementing?”

The spokesperson says the increase in charges reflects the significant investment the government has made in the road network.

A disallowance motion must be made within 15 parliamentary sitting days of a rule or regulation being made. The Opposition must cobble together a majority of MPs for the motion to get up.

Some jurisdictions have broken ranks on the impending heavy vehicle charges, with Western Australia and the Northern Territory announcing significantly lower fees.

South Australia has granted a concession to road train operators, while NSW is working on an assistance package for small to medium trucking businesses.

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