Despite losing the battle to rescind the 2.4 cents-per-litre increase in the fuel tax paid by heavy vehicle operators, the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association (ALRTA) has congratulated the opposition and independents for their scrutiny of the National Transport Commission (NTC) recommendations.
“Confidence in the commonwealth, state and territory governments’ ability to manage and reform the heavy vehicle road use charging system is now in doubt,” said John Beer, national president of ALRTA. “If trust, transparency and confidence are not restored, the delivery of major micro-economic reforms to improve infrastructure funding and financing, as advocated by Sir Rod Eddington of Infrastructure Australia, may be placed at risk.”
Beer’s comments came after the federal parliament was forced into an extra-ordinary tie-breaker vote, as the federal government found itself obliged to defend the work of the NTC.
Last Monday, leader of the Nationals, Warren Truss, moved to ‘disallow’ a 2.4 cents-per-litre increase in the diesel tax paid by heavy vehicles. The increase had been implemented in July this year, based on recommendations made by the NTC to commonwealth, state and territory governments.
The House of Representatives deadlocked on Truss’ motion and the acting speaker used her casting vote to uphold the existing law, as required under Westminster conventions.
“The ALRTA thanks Mr Truss and his parliamentary colleagues for bringing such intense scrutiny to the work of the NTC,” John Beer said. “We are deeply grateful for the attention that the parliament has given to our concerns.”
ALRTA acknowledges that the government has initiated a review of the ‘roles and responsibilities’ of the NTC and a review of the methodology it uses when calculating registration charges and fuel taxes paid by the heavy vehicle industry.
“However, like our colleagues in the Australian Logistics Council, the ALRTA now would like to see governments go further and transfer the ‘regulatory and operational reform’ functions of the NTC to the new National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), which will soon be established in Brisbane.
“We strongly support creation of this new regulator,” Beer continued. “The ALRTA also calls for all governments to review the governance arrangements for the COAG Road Reform Plan – now called the Heavy Vehicle Charging and Investment Reform Initiative (HVCI).”
The ‘project board’ leading the HVCI reform is dominated by state treasury and state transport officials. The commonwealth treasury is not represented on the project board.
“The ALRTA has welcomed the appointment of an independent chairman to lead the HVCI project board,” John added. “But we believe the chairman should be joined by several businesspeople, particularly including at least one person with special knowledge of rural and regional Australia.
“The lesson from this dramatic day in parliament is surely that, like other major industries in Australia, the transport industry will not stand idly to one side when we feel we have been consulted poorly.
“If governments are serious about trying to achieve major reforms to road infrastructure funding and charging in Australia, giving our industry a ‘seat at the table’ will be a key step to improving trust, transparency and confidence.”