A lamb stands next to its dead mother at Billaglen farm near Braidwood.
A lamb stands next to its dead mother at Billaglen farm near Braidwood.

NSW farmers overcharged rego for vehicles for decades

THE Berejiklian government has been secretly sitting on an explosive report showing struggling NSW farmers are owed more than $30 million after being overcharged for vehicle registration for decades.

An internal Roads and Maritime Services document obtained by The Daily Telegraph - marked "sensitive NSW Government" and "privileged and confidential" - reveals almost 7000 farmers have been overcharged by up to $730 per vehicle every year since 1998.

Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott climbed into a farm ute as part of a drought tour in 2014. Farmers have been overcharged for vehicle registration for decades.
Then Prime Minister Tony Abbott climbed into a farm ute as part of a drought tour in 2014. Farmers have been overcharged for vehicle registration for decades.

The document says farmers have been wrongly denied a full discount on a concession scheme and suggests they are entitled to a minimum $32 million in refunds.

Under the "primary producer concession scheme" farmers are entitled to a discount on steep rego costs, which add up to thousands of dollars.

When the scheme was introduced, it came on top of an existing scheme for business owners who had heavy vehicles, which capped their costs, but a "legislative drafting error" meant the wrong amounts were applied to farmers.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP for Orange Phil Donato said the government had known about the overcharging "rip off" since February 2018 - but had sat on its hands.

He accused Roads Minister Melinda Pavey of "silently fleecing" farmers by not ­returning the money as soon as the problem was discovered.

Ms Pavey ­said “this is not the time for politics”. Picture: Richard Dobson
Ms Pavey ­said “this is not the time for politics”. Picture: Richard Dobson

"This is outrageous - farmers have been silently fleeced for at least 20 years," Mr Donato said.

"And instead of doing something about it straight away, they have done nothing while farmers struggle to put food on the own table. It is daylight robbery."

Questioned in parliament about the secret documents and why farmers had not been refunded, Ms Pavey ­replied "this is not the time for politics", adding that under the government's recent drought relief measures, class one agricultural vehicles rego costs were being waived.

Her spokesman was unable to get a further comment before deadline.

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP for Orange Phil Donato said the government has known about the overcharging “rip off” since February 2018. Picture: Edith Gowing
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP for Orange Phil Donato said the government has known about the overcharging “rip off” since February 2018. Picture: Edith Gowing

 

The secret RMS documents state there will be a "significant revenue impact" to fix the blunder, costing the budget $12.5 million a year and increasing 12.7 per cent every year from now on. RMS estimates it will cost at least $1 million just to administer a refund scheme.

"RMS is obliged to take action to rectify the anomaly by seeking legislative change or changing current operations to align with legislation," the internal documents state.

"As officeholders, RMS has an obligation to rectify this anomaly."

Under a draft timetable to fix the blunder Ministers Pavey and Transport Minister Andrew Constance were due to be briefed in March and legislation passed back in May to sort the issue out.

Under one option, suggested in the internal review farmers should have been identified in May for refunds and claims.

"This is a kick in the guts for our farmers while they're down and out suffering through the drought," Mr Donato said.