Passengers `duped' on rebates

PASSENGERS travelling across Bass Strait with a vehicle are being duped $250 in rebates per return trip, according to a submission to the Tasmanian Shipping Inquiry.

The submission, presented  jointly by the Tourism Industry Council Tasmania, Australian Tourism and Transport Forum and Cradle Coast Tourism Executive, said the value of the  Bass Strait Passenger Vehicle Equalisation Scheme rebate had plummeted 40 per cent since it was   established in 1996 under the Howard government.

If the same formula was used when the scheme was brought in, passengers should be receiving $660 off their return trip rather than $408, according to the submission.

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said that even if just CPI indexation had been applied to the scheme since it was established in 1996, it would be worth up to $280 each way, not the current $204.

``With the rebate not keeping pace with the cost of transport, motorists are paying more through their fares,'' Mr Martin said.

``This confirms community and tourism industry concern about the rising cost of travel on Bass Strait over the past few years.''

The rebate was introduced to treat Bass Strait as ``Tasmania's sea highway'' and was to be achieved through a per-vehicle rebate paid directly to the vehicle owner through discounted fares on ships servicing Bass Strait. It was set at the equivalent cost of an average vehicle travelling the same distance as Bass Strait on the National Highway network.

Mr Martin said visitors who arrived by sea with their own vehicle stayed longer, spent more  and dispersed further through regional areas of the state. 

``Without the scheme, the cost of bringing your vehicle across Bass Strait would be up to $400 more return, which would kill this visitor market and undermine the viability of the Spirit of Tasmania service,'' he said.

Bass Liberal MHR Andrew Nikolic said all submissions would be considered. He said good things often were revealed in the process.

Mr Nikolic said he would be looking at ways to improve the system.

``Unlike the Labor-Green government, we want to fix strategic drift in the state,'' he said.

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