Transporters brace for costs hit

Kate Pollard and Haidee VandenbergheCountryman

Transporters and farm gates will be hit hardest by the Federal Budget's increased rates for heavy vehicle road user charges from July 1.

While no change was made to the diesel fuel excise rebate, loads heavier than 4.5 tonnes using public roads will be charged 2.4 cents a litre more.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association spokesman Sheldon Mumby said it would hit agriculture hard.

"WA farmers and pastoralists are dependent on a competitive road transport industry to supply and deliver everything from livestock to grain to fertiliser to fuel," Mr Mumby said.

"The increase in the Heavy Vehicle Road User Charge from 23.1c per litre to 25.5c/L may save the Government $698 million but it will add nearly $700 million to the cost of heavy vehicle haulage, which will significantly impact on farm gate margins and increase the price of food for consumers."

WAFarmers president Dale Park said it was another cost pressure.

"Anything transported will be affected as well as non-agriculture products," Mr Parker said.

"The cost of food will probably go up. It's going to affect everyone in the country… the road user charge has a bigger effect in WA than the other States."

Livestock Transporters Association WA president Grant Robins believes transporters will have no option but to pass the full increase onto customers.

"With an increase of over 14 per cent on the road user charge and 5.7 per cent increase on the registration charge, there will be a big impact," he said.

Mr Robins said the road user charge would affect any vehicle larger than a ute.

"Most prime movers are between 10 to 12 tonnes before you even add a trailer on the back," he said. "It will also affect farmers, even those with small trucks."

While funds from the new increase will be used to upgrade and maintain heavily used roadways, Mr Robins said a more efficient system of checks and balances needed to be put in place.

He believes the Government is not getting value for money from road improvements and despite a bigger cash pool, will continue to be inefficient.

The 5.7 per cent increase in registrations, which falls under the National Transport Commissions Road Reform, has been agreed to by the State Government.

Operators have been given some respite with a 'transitional charge', which falls a long-way short of the NTC pricing where the cost of registering a four-axle rigid truck would triple in WA.

Although the price hike might direct some money towards roads, Forrest MHR Nola Marino said regional WA had been short changed in the Budget.

Despite being the "engine room" of the nation's economy, WA failed to pick up any funding for specific projects from the $270 million allocated to regional development, she said.

By contrast, every other State had received millions in funding, including $62 million for New South Wales, $23 million for Tasmania and $56 million for the Australian Capital Territory.

Ms Marino accused the Federal Government of "plundering" regional WA.

"Instead of investing in the future of our regions, which are driving the growth of our great nation, the Labor Government has imposed higher taxes to fund giveaways in the eastern states," she said.

"There are no new infrastructure projects listed for WA and the levels of funding continue to plummet."

Ms Marino said WA's share of the GST would fall from 55c for every dollar it contributed to a projected 29c in two years.

Durack MHR Barry Haase was disappointed infrastructure projects in the North West had failed to pick up funding.

"It's a failed budget that creates an estimated paper surplus but when you consider they got last year's figures wrong by $36 billion, a $1.5 estimate at this time is meaningless," he said.

"The infrastructure that is being demanded by local governments for fly-in, fly-out workers is enormous.

"If they don't get that local infrastructure then we've got a problem in coping with that explosion in population and infrastructure demands."

The Labor Government Budget has also contributed $1 billion for capital works projects in WA for the next 12 months as well as $140 million to build more truck stops and $4 million to put seatbelts on regional school buses.

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