Government pledges consultation on port tax

Victorian Government reiterates it will consult indsutry on proposed port truck tax

By Rob McKay | September 24, 2010

Facing efforts to divert it from its strategy of recouping infrastructure expenditure from the industries that use it, the Victorian Government reiterated today that consultation was continuing on its proposed Melbourne port truck tax.

The response came after the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) joined other industry players in taking a swipe at it.

Writing in the The Age today, VECCI CEO Wayne Kayler-Thompson said the state’s proposed Freight Infrastructure Charge would add $90 to the cost of sending an export container, thereby damaging the competitiveness of local goods in the international market while making imported goods more expensive.

Kayler-Thompson took the Labor Government to task for the lack of an impact study of the tax, which he insisted flew in the face of its own pledge to reduce the regulatory burden on business.

On the stated aim of changing freight mode behaviour, he pointed out that only 20 per cent of freight travels further than 40km from the port, so rail will be unable to take that load.

The Victorian Transport Association and the Transport Workers Union argue that smaller operators will not be able to pass on the charge as that they were price-takers in the domestic market.

Kayler-Thompson says exporters, especially agricultural producers, who were also price takers in the international market, will face the charge being passed on by larger trucking firms.

"We’re working with industry and have set up a Stakeholder Advisory Group - which includes the TWU, VTA and other key players in the industry - to look at the best use of existing infrastructure and pricing mechanisms that drive behaviour changes," a spokesman for Roads and Ports Minister Tim Pallas says.

"Implementing this charge requires careful planning and we're committed to thorough consultation to ensure a fair system for all operators.

"The Freight Infrastructure Charge is aimed at easing congestion and improving urban amenity around the Port of Melbourne, with trucks to be encouraged to access the precinct at off-peak times."

He says the charge is aimed at improving freight transport efficiency at the port and will contribute to infrastructure investment outlined in the Victorian Transport Plan.

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