Fuel prices threaten businesses

PAYING more at the bowser for your petrol is likely to be accelerated with the Federal Government considering unfreezing the excise on petrol.

The excise has been frozen at 38.1 cents a litre since 2001 when Prime Minister John Howard needed a sweetener to smooth discontent with the Goods and Services Tax.

Indexing the excise to inflation could mean changes to the excise every six months. Reports say the measure should raise $340 million in its first year, rising to $1.5 billion by 2018.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says the money collected from petrol taxes will go to the $40 billion the government claims it will spend on roads over the next six years.

As a relatively large fuel user, Clarence Valley Council will be watching the budget closely.

Council's corporate director Ashley Lindsay said any changes to fuel excises or the diesel fuel rebate could impact on council finances, but without details it was impossible to say to what extent. He said the council was eligible for the diesel fuel rebate for some operations, but most did not qualify. He said it could only claim the rebate for diesel used in machinery that was not used on public roads, such as vehicles at the regional landfill.

For the fishing industry, dealing with the stress of structural reform, the proposal won't have too much effect on diesel prices.

Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative fishing and marketing manager Garry Anderson said fishers were still eligible for the diesel price rebate, which allowed them to claim back 100% of the fuel excise.

"If there was any significant increases to the diesel price it would be the end of the industry," Mr Anderson said. He said the increase may affect the co-op which runs a truck fleet, but management had not yet looked at its ramifications.

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