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"Queenslanders are hurting from increases in the cost of living and nearly every day they are confronted by another example of the Bligh government hitting their back pocket. Labor is making sure every Queenslander pays for its incompetent economic management. Labor seems to view Queensland motorists as its cash cow."

Hansard Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Mr EMERSON (Indooroopilly—LNP) (8.48 pm): Queenslanders are hurting from increases in the cost of living and nearly every day they are confronted by another example of the Bligh government hitting their back pocket. Labor is making sure every Queenslander pays for its incompetent economic management. Labor seems to view Queensland motorists as its cash cow. In contrast, the LNP recognises that Queenslanders are hurting under Labor. That is why the LNP will freeze registration costs for cars, boats and light trucks during its first term in government, but there is no freeze from Labor. Labor is forcing motorists to make ever-increasing contributions to the state budget to make up for its failures.

Queensland has become the most expensive state in Australia to own and run a car. The fact is that the Bligh government is taking motorists for a ride. Both welfare and motoring groups have warned that motoring costs are escalating beyond the reach of many Queenslanders. As RACQ spokesman Gary Fites said—

It is fair to say motorists are getting close to the breaking point as far as the cost of motoring is concerned ... but the State Government has motorists over the barrel because cars are a necessity for Queensland households.

Last year most vehicle registration fees rose by 17 per cent and this year they will go up once again. In the past two years alone, the revenue collected from motor vehicle registration has risen by 30 per cent, from $1.014 billion to an estimated $1.31 billion in 2010-11. Since 1 July, it has cost $627 to register a large car in Queensland, compared to $178 in Victoria and $246 in Tasmania. Vehicle registration fees now account for 13 per cent of the government’s total tax take and are one of the largest single-source tax revenues. While motorists pay more, the government is allocating less of its resources to the road network. This year spending on roads will fall by 6.6 per cent, which is down more than $232.5 million, while motorists will pay an extra $50 million in registration fees.

One of the clearest examples of how much Queensland motorists are hurting is how many are late in paying their registration fees. Hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders were hit with more than $27 million in late fees for failing to pay their annual vehicle registration bills on time. Motorists paid about 600,000 late payment fees of up to $48.05 each in the last financial year, funnelling in excess of $73,000 into the state coffers every day. This is a record number of defaults. This controversial fee, initially $40, was introduced by the state government in 2003 and rises annually. From 1 July it increased to $49.15 for vehicles and $12.22 for trailers and recreational ships.

However, it is not just the registration fees that are increasing the cost of living for struggling Queenslanders. Queensland motorists have gone from paying the lowest petrol prices in Australia to the highest in the year since the Bligh government’s fuel tax was introduced. Monitoring by price watchdogs FUELtrac and MotorMouth showed that in July Brisbane had the highest average unleaded petrol price of all mainland capitals, at $1.27 a litre. Let us not forget that this is a fuel tax that the Bligh government ruled out. On 3 June 2008 in parliament, Premier Anna Bligh said of Queenslanders—

I will not kick them— that is, Queenslanders— when they are down and I will not abolish the petrol subsidy.

On 16 January 2009 in the Courier-Mail, Treasurer Andrew Fraser was quoted as saying—

Make no mistake about it. We’ll be delivering a fuel subsidy scheme. It will stay in place.

Of course, after the state election, in the 2009-10 budget, the Treasurer scrapped the fuel subsidy, costing Queensland motorists an extra 9.1c a litre in fuel.

In this financial year the burden on South-East Queensland motorists has increased further, with the government lifting tolls across the Queensland Motorways network. A single Gateway bridge crossing is up 30 per cent, from $2.95 to $3.85. From 1 July 2010, tolls for the Gateway Motorway increased by 30 per cent. The toll for a private car or a small truck rose from $2.95 to $3.85, a spike of almost $1. The toll increase is being used to drive up the revenue base for Queensland Motorways as the government pursues its sale. Higher revenues mean that the government can seek a higher price for the asset. The Bligh government has also developed a detailed proposal to charge distance tolls to use major south-east roads, including charging motorists 12c a kilometre. The government has ruled it out, but can it be believed? It also ruled out scrapping the fuel subsidy.

The new smart driver’s licence is supposed to be cost neutral, but instead the cost of a five-year licence will jump from the current charge of $73.30 to $96.05 next year and $152.50 by 2014-15. That will be the equal highest cost in Australia. The Queensland Council of Social Service’s board president, Karyn Walsh, has said that the increasing cost of living was putting pressure on the 400,000 people living below the poverty line. She said—

There are a significant number of people who are underemployed so the predictability of their income is a challenge for their expenses.

There are many people who don’t have the luxury of a choice between public transport and a car—a car is an essential in a lot of communities where there isn’t the infrastructure of public transport.

Even if they can access public transport, Queenslanders have been hit by an increase in the cost of living. From 1 January 2010 go card fares rose by about 20 per cent and paper ticket costs are climbing by around 40 per cent. Fares will jump by 15 per cent annually from 2011 to 2014. Whether it is the costs of registration, petrol, driver’s licences, road tolls or public transport, this Labor government continues to increase the cost of living for Queenslanders.