Push to cut fuel tax defeated …

The Federal Parliament has finally made its ruling on the Hon Warren Truss’ push to cut back this year’s diesel tax increase.

Three months ago, on 24 June, Mr Truss wrote to the Government, inviting them to implement an increase of only 5.7% (1.3 cents-per-litre) this year. He pledged that the Opposition would support such an increase if the Government would re-consider its position.

The Government declined that offer, and the Opposition consequently tested the Government’s support by putting the matter to the vote in Parliament.

On Monday 17 September 2012, there was a long, heated debate in the House of Representatives.

And at the end of all the debate, the House of Representatives actually deadlocked on Mr Truss’ motion.

It was a tie – 65 all – as close as you can get; as close as anyone’s got during the life of the current Parliament.

The Acting Speaker then used her casting vote to uphold the existing law, because that’s what the Speaker is required to do under Westminster conventions.

This year’s 2.4 cents-per-litre fuel tax increase is here to stay. Hope of cutting it to 1.3 cpl is at an end.

Truss photo1The ALRTA has issued a media statement publicly thanking Mr Truss and his Parliamentary colleagues for bringing such intense scrutiny to this year’s diesel tax increase.

We are deeply grateful for the attention that has been given to our concerns.

On behalf of President Beer, our Former National President, David Smith, has personally delivered our warm thanks to Mr Truss for his support to our industry.

… Coalition and ALRTA policy aligned

The ALRTA has been opposing the 2.4 cents-per-litre increase since it was proposed.

ALRTA has argued that a fair and reasonable increase to impose on the whole industry would have been an increase of only 1.3 cents-per-litre (5.7%) in this current year.

Our National Council adopted that policy back in March of this year.

There are some people in the transport industry who were bold enough to hope that there was a chance of getting a 0% increase. Good on them for being so bravely ambitious.

But the real world doesn’t often give way to those who dare to dream (and more’s the pity!).

The truth of the matter is the Coalition are, of course, utterly serious about becoming the next Government of Australia.

And that means that Mr Hockey, the Shadow Treasurer, and Mr Robb, the Shadow Minister for Finance, are constantly hard at work, thinking about how they’ll make all their sums add up.

Mr Truss did a great job to get the Shadow Cabinet to support a figure of only 1.3 cents-per-litre.

And in Parliament on 17 September, Mr Truss confirmed that this remains the Coalition’s policy:

The Coalition’s offer to the Government to meet truck drivers halfway in reducing the road user charge remains on the table. If the Government agrees to a reasonable 5.7 per cent increase rather than this arbitrary 10.4 per cent increase, the Coalition will agree to the determination.

HANSARD 17 September 2012, p27

… three months in search of support

Back in June, when the Opposition announced that they were in favour of a 5.7% increase, it really lifted our spirits.

We felt that the Opposition’s announcement gave some real urgency and extra credibility to our concerns.

We turned our attention to the Independent Members of Parliament.

We spent weeks chasing the Independents around the country, and up and down the corridors of Federal Parliament.

It got to the stage that, on one particularly important morning, the Chief of Staff of one MP broke into a run when we came down the corridor: ‘It’s OK, we know what you want, you truly don’t need to talk to us again’. 

After that, we backed off a little. But only a little.

… Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshott acknowledge ALRTA

The result on 17 September was so very close because three of the six Independents actually voted to support Mr Truss’ motion.

Mr Crook (the Member for O’Connor, WA), Mr Katter (the Member for Kennedy, QLD) and Mr Oakeshott (the Member for Lyne, NSW) supported Mr Truss’ motion.

Bob Katter was kind enough to send us a note, advising that he would to vote with Mr Truss because of the time we’d spent briefing him and explaining our views and concerns.

Rob Oakeshott’s decision to vote with the Coalition was a surprise to a fair number of MPs and to a couple of journalists. And he went even further than Bob Katter: he actually put out a press release acknowledging his discussions with the ALRTA. We got some calls about that.

… and what about Tony Windsor?

Say what you like about Mr Windsor (Member for New England, NSW), he’s a man who knows his own mind. And he’s fiercely loyal to NSW. Indeed, we’d respectfully suggest that he is possibly too loyal.

This is what Mr Windsor said in Parliament:

Just for those who are not familiar with this particular issue, I will walk through it …

[Earlier this year] the National Transport Commission presented a new charging model to the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure.

… the National Transport Commission … recommended an increase in the road user charge from 23.1c to 25.5c a litre, on page 25 of the National Transport Commission’s Heavy Vehicle Charges Paper. Hence what came to be known as resolution 3(b), …  was passed.

… It is very clear, if one takes the time to go through the documentation, that in the New South Wales case the Hon. Duncan Gay—who was represented by Mr Tim Reardon, Deputy Director General, Policy and Regulation, Transport New South Wales—supported the resolution.

I think, from memory, that the Northern Territory and Western Australia had some reservations in terms of the future model. But essentially all States, as part of that COAG process, through that National Transport Commission—or SCOTI—supported the concept.

So it is very strange, when you have had a process that has been supported by both sides … the Liberal-National Government and the Labor Party … that there is a disallowance motion in this particular bill.

This is about a road user charge. I could enter into a whole range of debates both with the Government and with the Opposition about the 38c per litre that car road users pay and the amount of that that is returned to the roads.

Something like $2 billion in total is returned to roads, in associated grants and other things. But something like $15 billion is raised. So a very small proportion of what is raised from the motorist actually goes back into some form of road construction.

Nonetheless, the transport industry and others—both sides of government, the Howard governments as well as the Rudd and Gillard governments—have supported the concept of cost recovery as a component of the structure of transport arrangements within the Australian nation.

And the States and Territories have supported that concept as well, because they are the recipients of some of that money … In this particular case, the various States and Territories have walked through, they have agreed with the process, they have agreed with the increase.

… We can all play the short-term game of politics, but there has been a fairly long established process that has been brought in by both sides of parliament.

We need to try to adhere to those processes otherwise you have this convoluted tennis match going on where you just score points against the other. It is quite obvious to me.

I have great respect for Warren Truss. I hope he stays here and the other fellow stays where he is, because I think Australia would be better off with Warren Truss in this particular part of the Parliament than some of the others who aspire to get here.

I say to Warren Truss that this is not the time to play a game with this particular process. This has obviously been adhered to by the States and Territories and by the Commonwealth and I would be very reluctant to support bombing that process out.

Hence I will not be supporting the disallowance.

HANSARD 17 September 2012, p57-59

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