The federal government’s approval of further increases to the road user charge (RUC) could spell disaster for truck companies, fruit and vegetable growers and the consumer, warns Kennedy MP Bob Katter.
Katter was reacting to a current National Transport Commission industry discussion paper that proposes an RUC increase of as high as 9 cents per litre (cpl) over the next three years.
Katter said if you believed that this cost wouldn’t be passed on to the consumer, “you believe in the tooth fairy”.
“Transport companies in my electorate are already warning growers that they are going to have no choice but to pass the cost onto farmers,” Katter said.
“Farmers already burdened by labour shortages, and a recent doubling of freight, fertiliser and packaging costs – will be left with two choices: go bust or get a higher price for their fruit and vegetables.
“Put simply, if the consumer is not willing to pay higher prices for Australian fruit and vegetables our supermarket fruit and vegetable shelves will be empty.
“Immediate action from the federal government to overturn this ridiculous decision is required to support Australian farmers, not crucify them.
“I don’t know of any truckies that are flying in private jets or going off on overseas holidays so the expectation they are to absorb these costs and survive is laughable.
Katter said, 3000-4000 farmers were leaving the industry every year and turning to cattle because the costs were killing them in crop farming.
“If I lose places like Innisfail to cattle, the town which is currently 24,000, will die.
“One would have thought the pandemic, that saw supermarket shelves empty for the first time in my lifetime, would have been a wakeup call for the government. You would have thought that China cutting off our Urea (and thus diesel) would have been a wakeup call? No way hosay.”
Townsville transport operator Clynton Hawks said the industry lacked transparency and that increases to the RUC would decrease the fuel tax credit (FTC), a crucial cost alleviation for truckies.
“We’ve already been hit with inflated prices of diesel, insurance and AdBlue and now we are being told we have to absorb a 9 cpl increase – it’s just wrong,” Hawks said.
“The federal Labor government was elected as the ‘government of transparency’, introducing a federal ICAC, but they can’t even disclose where these funds will be spent. It’s a closed-door process conducted by the Transport Commission, and we get no information as to where they get these increase numbers from or why.
“Any decrease to the fuel tax credit means everyone loses out and what they are talking about here is an 9 cents per litre tax increase to the already existing to the road user charge.
“If the government thinks the truckies are in a financial position to absorb these cost increases – and we are told more are coming – well it’ll just be a matter of time before thousands of truckies assemble on the lawns of Parliament House.
“Trucks will park up if they can’t pass on these costs. And they shouldn’t be expected to absorb them either.
“The road user charge is supposed to be used for road works across the country, but we have no idea whether this money is being spent in areas it’s supposed to be.”
Big Rigs understands that Katter’s office spoke with the Minister for Transport’s office on Friday afternoon (October 21) requesting it considers including transport bodies in the National Transport Commission’s state and territory PAYGO reporting process and a consideration to move to an indexation model for setting the RUC. An official request in writing will be made to the minister this week.
When Big Rigs contacted Catherine King’s office for more details of the potential increase, a spokesperson deflected talk of a 9 cpl spike, focusing instead on the 0.8 cpl increase from September 29.
“The modest increase to the RUC – much less than inflation and much less than the amount required to recover costs from heavy vehicles – should have only a very modest impact on freight operators, producers and consumers,” they said in an emailed response.
“At the same time, the temporary cut in the fuel excise ended on September 28, meaning heavy vehicle operators are again able to claim back Fuel Tax Credits for fuel purchased from September 29 onwards – which helps offset the RUC increase.”
The spokesperson, however, also added that in recent years, the NTC estimates a large gap of around 24 per cent, or $847 million each year, has opened up between the level of charges and increased road expenditure to be recovered.
“The increase in consolidated revenue from the increase to the RUC will be reflected in Tuesday’s (October 25) federal budget.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Trucking Association CEO Gary Mahon, who wrote a column on the same issue last week, says he’ll continue to advocate for restraint on any RUC increases in the future.
“We’re trying to get the best deal we can for our people because there are just costs coming down the pipe from every direction and this [a 9 cpl increase] will have a significant impact on the fuel tax credit,” said Mahon.
“To be a sustainable industry, if you increase it by that much, you need to be clear that it will be a cost passed straight on because the industry can’t carry it.”