FUEL companies have reluctantly started to notify their customers that the price of aviation fuel for mustering cattle will rise.
An essential part of the cost of managing modern cattle operations, aviation fuel is used for helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to check water supplies and animals throughout the year and during calving, often when conditions are too wet to travel on the ground.
Mustering cattle to allow essential animal husbandry practice such as weaning, vaccinating and attending to calves, and the gathering of cattle for sale are often only possible with the use of aircraft.
The decision by the government not to extend the tax exemption to on-property aviation fuel is yet another blow to the struggling northern cattle industry, said Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (NTCA) president David Warriner.
"This is on top of last year's live export ban which effectively shut down the northern industry - and the flow-on of that impact is still accelerating, with Indonesian import quotas for Australian cattle at an all-time low," Mr Warriner said.
Fuel companies have begun to notify customers that the rise will be in the order of 9-10c/litre from July 1, 2012.
This will not only increase the direct costs for those cattle stations that operate their own aircraft, but also the companies that supply mustering services to the industry.
It will increase the cost of production, said Mr Warriner, forcing savings in other areas such as labour, and will also increase the cost of other essential operations such as fire management and monitoring, weed and pest management survey, and control programs.
According to Mr Warriner, all of these operations relate to the overall well-being and environmental integrity of northern Australia, making the revenue raised through the tax a false economy.
While the NTCA applauded the government's decision to exempt other on-property fuel from the carbon tax, the possibility of on-road transport fuel being taxed from 2014 is causing serious concern.
Freight is a major part of the cost of doing business with the transport of goods and services in and livestock out over long distances.
As it is, from July 1 there will be a flow-on impact, with the carbon tax affecting the cost of most business products and services.
"These costs will not only further stress families and business viability, but also the competitiveness of our industry in the domestic and international markets on which we depend.
"We call on the government to exempt aviation fuel from the carbon tax for the good of the families and country of northern Australia," Mr Warriner said.
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