AA calls for ACC levy on booze

HIT HARD: Half of classic car owners drive them less than 1000km in a year, yet must still pay the same ACC levy through their registration.
HIT HARD: Half of classic car owners drive them less than 1000km in a year, yet must still pay the same ACC levy through their registration.

The alcohol industry is baulking at a proposal that booze sales be loaded with an extra levy to help pay for the carnage caused by drink drivers on the road.

The call from the Automobile Association for the costs of treatment and rehabilitation after accidents to be funded by a levy on booze sales is one of a raft of suggestions it is making as part of public consultation on changes to ACC motor vehicle levies.

The public consultation closes next week and ACC proposals on making the funding of the motor vehicle fund fairer kick in from July 1 next year.

The no-fault accident compensation scheme has been much criticised in recent years but AA said it delivers injury "insurance" at about half the cost of private sector models overseas.

ACC plans to start charging owners of riskier vehicles higher levies in its coming financial year, though the average levy on car registration will drop by 40 per cent to an average of $200.

It's hoped that will be a fairer way of funding the costs of treatment and rehabilitation after accidents, and that it will steer people towards buying safer cars that cost less to register.

But the AA wants the ACC to go further because elderly people, those who drive relatively infrequently, non-drinkers, multiple car owners, and vintage car enthusiasts will all continue to pay too much under the current plan.

AA's Mark Stockdale said motor vehicle injury costs are all funded from the motor vehicle levy, but some result from alcohol-related crashes caused by drunk motorists.

"We think it would be fairer if the alcohol-related crash costs are actually funded from a levy on alcohol."

In the 12 months to the end of June last year, just over $1 billion of motor vehicle levies were collected. As around 13 per cent of motor vehicle injury accidents and 36 per cent of motor vehicle fatalities and associated ACC costs, are due to alcohol-impaired driving, AA estimated the levy shift it wants could reap more than $360 million.

But Robert Brewer, chief executive of the Distilled Spirits Association, questioned whether the AA's proposal would be any fairer as all drinkers would be levied for the actions of a minority rather than all drivers.

And higher alcohol prices wouldn't change behaviour as alcohol consumption was fairly price inelastic especially for problem drinkers, Brewer said.

The AA also reckons that many retired people on fixed incomes are paying more than their fair share, and is calling on ACC to collect more off its levy on petrol levies.

People who drove more kilometres contributed more to accident risk than those who drove less, but only one-third of the motor vehicle levies were collected on petrol duties.

"Levies on fuel are fairer for people on fixed incomes who do low mileage like retired people, or those on lower incomes," Stockdale said.

That would also be a way of making those who don't register their car contribute more to the cost of accident treatment and rehabilitation.

Classic car owners also believe they are being whacked in the pocket by the current regime. Roy Hughes from the Federation of Motoring Clubs, which has around 35,000 members, said the proportion of the levy collected on petrol sales should rise from 33 per cent to 50 per cent.

Hughes, who owns 17 cars, said: "We surveyed our members and found 50 per cent of them drove less than 1000km. When the ACC levies are collected on the registration, then they are paying more than their fair share."

In addition, some vintage cars would be bracketed among the higher risk cars, and so pay top whack at registration time, but Hughes said the ACC minister had promised to look at that.

A levy on diesel fuel sales should also be introduced and the diesel levy on registration reduced, the AA believed.

Currently all diesel vehicles pay the same levy, irrespective of mileage. "A courier driver is paying the same ACC levy as a family which owns a diesel to tow their boat on holiday. That's clearly wrong," Stockdale said.

Motorbike owners will get no reduction in levy, which means in real terms they are expected to fund a growing portion of the levy pool, but ACC said motorcycles are so risky, their owners will still be effectively subsidised by car owners.

The registration levy for bikes of 600cc or over would be $427.

It would have to be $1881 if motorbike owners contributed levies sufficient to pay for the costs of treatment and rehabilitation for accidents this mode of transport was involved in.

Even if you stripped out all the accidents involving another vehicle, their levy would have to be $837 to cover ACC's costs of treating and rehabilitating riders.

Sunday Star Times