Winners and losers speak out on Federal spending

Most heat comes from rail sector over heavy roads focus and local government on funds freeze

Winners and losers speak out on Federal spending
Treasurer Joe Hockey: focus on infrastructure


Road freight and logistics peak bodies emphasised the Federal Budget positives where they could but rail and local government organisations expressed disappointment.

Treasurer Joe Hockey's roads spending gained the most bouquets from trucking and logistics but rail was the poor relation.

The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) welcomed the Government’s decision not to change the fuel tax credits system but again marked it down for ignoring its own advice on overcharging.

"The ATA pressed the Government to keep the fuel tax credits system as it is, despite suggestions that it could take a haircut," ATA CEO Stuart St Clair says.

"The Government’s decision is a win for the trucking industry. The fuel tax credits system helps reduce the cost of transporting freight and keeps our exporters competitive."

St Clair says the trucking industry more than paid its way on the road system through the road user charge and very high registration charges.

"Last year, the National Transport Commission concluded that the truck and bus industries would be overcharged by $232 million in 2014-15.

"The Government’s decision not to increase the road user charge this year will reduce the level of overcharging, but we will still pay $200 million too much."

He said the Government’s infrastructure investment package would deliver the roads the trucking industry will need to do its job as the economy grows.

"The Government’s investment will make the roads safer and deliver improved productivity," St Clair says.

The Australian Logistics Council backed the freight infrastructure spend and emphasis on asset recycling but urged all government to focus on delivery.

"With funds for a number of major infrastructure projects not scheduled to flow for a number of years, it is imperative that all governments act with a sense of urgency and deliver on road and rail projects receiving funding next financial year to improve efficiency and boost productivity," ALC Managing Director Michael Kilgariff says.

"This is particularly important against the backdrop of a relatively tough budget for many parts of the economy – the more efficient movement of freight across our domestic supply chains ultimately benefits all Australians and stimulates much needed economic activity."

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) voiced dismay that rail spending was 10 per cent that of road – $2.7 billion against $26.8 billion.

"This Budget has shown a drastic decrease in planned funding for rail transport over the next four years, with the Federal Government’s investment in rail decreasing by 42 per cent come 2015 and almost 70 per cent come 2018," ARA CEO Bryan Nye says.

The onus was now on the States to pick up the slack through Federal assistance measures such as the Asset Recycling Fund and he notes that no new money has been allocated on new projects for rail.

"Whilst we welcome the few announcements for rail in this budget, it is bitter sweet, as they represent no new dollars and only a fraction of the $39 billion dollars announced for infrastructure in total," Nye says.

"Inland Rail for example needs $4.5 billion to be completed by 2026, a deadline the Coalition has committed to meet.

"However, all they have announced is re-allocation of already committed dollars which falls far too short of the required amount to progress this nation building project. "

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) sees the freezing of Financial Assistance Grants (FAGs) indexation as having a likely flow-on to local road infrastructure, pointing out that $925 million will be lost over the next four years.

"Councils will have to re-evaluate what services and infrastructure they can provide as the level of funding remains static for the next three years," ALGA President Felicity-ann Lewis says, while welcoming the promised Bridges Renewal program.

She adds that "Local Government is responsible for 80 per cent of the nation’s roads by length and while investment in major transport infrastructure is important, we cannot afford to forget that almost every journey, whether by car or truck, begins and ends on local roads. 

"Councils need help to maintain the first and last mile of our transport network, on which the nation relies for the movement of goods and people."

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