Transport Minister Pam Beggs heads for Melbourne tonight to reinforce Western Australia's opposition to proposed national road charges.
Mrs Beggs today said the State Government could not support the charges to be recommended to Tuesday's meeting of the Council of Ministers by the National Road Transport Commission.
She said she had the full backing of the road transport industry and other groups such as primary producers.
The proposed charges were due to apply from mid-1995 and would more than double the registration costs of a six-axle semi-trailer.
"There are two crucial points that need to be looked at before new charges are introduced," Mrs Beggs said.
"The first of these is the general overall tax the road transport industry pays.
"Analysis by the State's Transport Department shows the tax level on the trucking industry is as high as 12 per cent, compared with an all-industry national average of around five per cent.
"Western Australia pushed strongly for a review of these tax levels and a Senate committee now has an inquiry underway.
"In light of this, it would be better for that inquiry to present its report before the transport industry is saddled with additional costs.
"The second point concerns road funding in general.
"The proposed charging schedule does not include any significant benefits for Western Australia in terms of road funding.
"Therefore it is unrealistic for the State to endorse the charges until these two issues are resolved."
Mrs Beggs said higher heavy vehicle charges in themselves would not improve road transport efficiency. This had been recognised by the National Road Transport Commission.
"The State Government has dramatically overhauled land freight transport policy in the past few years, with tremendous gains made in the productivity of rail and the deregulation of nearly all commodities," she said.
"This has resulted in savings of more than $60 million a year for transport users and the higher charges proposed will merely erode the gains we have made."
Mrs Beggs said the Council of Ministers could not amend the recommended charges. It could only accept or reject them.