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Opposition must come clean on no new taxes claim for road user charges



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MEDIA MELEASEMinister for Primary Industries and Energy Simon Crean, MP

DPIE91/304C 28 November 1991

OPPOSITION MUST COME CLEAN ON NO NEW TAXES CLAIM FOR ROAD USER CHARGES

The Opposition must come clean on its roads charges policy after claims yesterday by the Leader of the Opposition, John Hewson, they are committed to abolishing the Federal fuel excise, the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Simon Crean, said today.

"In a media release issued by Dr Hewson titled 'Fuel - No New Taxes', I am surprised he didn't add 'Read My Lips - No New Taxes'.

"He explicitly states: 'There will be no extra Commonwealth fuel-based road user charges for ordinary motorists; the 7 cents a litre raised by the GST functions as a user charge'.

"Further he said, 'There are many systems of road charging for heavy vehicles which road authorities are examining, including fixed registration charges and mass distance charges based on hub meters."

"Senator Boswell rejects higher registration charges as a means of funding. He said, 'The Federal Coalition would not support legislation next week in the Senate which would set up the National Road Transport Commission (NRTC)'.Coalition Rejects Truck Rego Hikes, November 26, 1991.

"The Shadow Minister for Land Transport, David Hawker, in his address to the National Transport Federation Conference in Adelaide clearly indicated that mass distance charges based on hub meters would not be used to achieve funding. Reform In Australia's Land Transport Sector, August 4, 1991.

"He said, 'The need to estimate, up to 12 months ahead, the mass- distance charge is most impractical. Another, cost effective, means must be found to measure this correctly."

Mr Crean said each new available option is ruled out after it is put under the microscope.

"With higher registration and mass distance charges the only alternatives identified by Dr Hewson and now ruled out, the big question

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is how will the Opposition raise the revenue to fund Australia's roads. And what specifically are the implications for farmers?"

Mr Crean said given this amazing recent backtrack the question had to be asked what role was to be played by the NRTC.

"In the Fightback document it clearly states that the role of the NRTC will be to review a national system of road user charges. It says the Commission would be guided by:

1. 'the need for the system of road user charges to be equitable, efficient and simple to administer and it would be free to recommend that charges take anv form or combination of forms:

2. 'ensuring that all revenue raised by user charges would be spent on road maintenance and construction;

3. 'its responsibility to determine the overall level of road user charges and road expenditures; and

4. 'charges and taxes on road users and the level of expenditure on roads no longer being subject to the vagaries of the political or budget processes which have produced wild fluctuations in rates of charge and levels of expenditure in past years.' Fightback document, pages 83-84.

"How does this 'responsibility' square with Hewson's clear statement?

"By Hewson progressively excluding options, rural Australia must question the Opposition's commitment to eliminating the 'vagaries' and achieving micro-economic reform."

Mr Crean said there are no guarantees, as highlighted by the discrepancies between Hewson's press statement and the Fightback document, that a Coalition Government would not implement a road user charge at some later date.

"Indeed in order to implement a clear commitment to user pays principles for road funding the money must come from somewhere - our pockets. The question is in what form," he said.

Information: Catherine Payne, Minister's Office (06) 277 7520.