Conflict between rail and road groups continues over the government’s emissions trading handouts.
Thirty representatives from Australia’s transport groups have met with Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong at a forum to discuss how best to curb climate change.
While rail groups argued rail is an environmentally friendly transport mode that deserves a bigger boost, the trucking sector called for more protection for their businesses and consumers under the emissions trading scheme.
Chief executive of the Australasian Railway Association Bryan Nye said the impending scheme favoured road transport by recommending an immediate cost offset for road use, but completely disregarded rail and its environmental benefits.
“It’s giving concessions to the trucking industry,” Mr Nye told AAP. “That defeats the whole reason for having a greenhouse program. Why not give a climate change credit to encourage people to use cleaner and greener forms of transport such as coastal shipping and rail?”
The green paper has recommended fuel for heavy vehicles to be exempt from price rises under the scheme until 2011, with petrol to be exempt until 2013.
While trucking groups wanted the fuel exemption to be extended, Mr Nye said he opposed to the move.
He has previously been quoted as saying: “It is bizarre that someone catching a train to work will have to pay more under the scheme, while car users causing pollution, congestion and health impacts will be compensated.”
The shipping and aviation sectors were also worried that the scheme could give their international rivals a competitive edge as it would force up domestic fuel and ticket prices whilst international players remain unaffected.
Senator Wong said Australia had no option but to cut its emissions, and there was no easy answer.
“We’ve said in terms of the carbon pollution reduction scheme, we’re willing to talk to business about the best way to design it,” she said.