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The supply chain matters

NatRoad research shows Australians are aware of how important trucks are to the flow of goods around the country

A very serious magazine named The Economist came up with The Big Mac Index in 1986 as a light-hearted measure of whether world currencies are at their ‘correct’ level.

The concept of Burgernomics is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), which says that long-term exchange rates should move towards a level that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services – or a hamburger – in any two countries.

At the time of writing, according to the Big Mac Index, the Australian dollar was undervalued against the US dollar.*

Burgernomics is a tangible way to communicate the impact of economics on our lives.

We might not know one end of a J curve from another, but we’ve all sampled fast food – even if your palate leans more towards a quality roadhouse T-bone than a double cheeseburger with an upsized Coke.

Which leads us to the issue of what Australians understand about the impacts of supply chain issues on the prices they are prepared to pay for everyday goods.

This was one thing NatRoad had in mind when it commissioned research to gauge what Aussies think of the road transport industry and its importance in their lives.

Independent consultants StollzNow Research canvassed an online panel of 1,000 people aged 18 and above.

The research found that almost all Australians either strongly agree (68 per cent) or agree (30 per cent) that road freight is an essential industry. Only two per cent answered in the negative. That probably shouldn’t come as a surprise in the wake of the worst of the global pandemic.

NatRoad-commissioned focus group research underlined strong support for the road freight transportation industry from the general public. 

The one thing that came across strongly is that people believe that Australia cannot function without trucks.

The question that needs to be asked is whether our political leaders feel the same way. Sometimes, you’d be entitled to think otherwise.

The former federal government’s decision to zero out our industry’s fuel tax credit (FTC) in its Budget, while halving the excise levied on fuel at the bowser, was a tremendous blow to operators who depend on maintaining cash flow.

At the time it was waved away as an unintended consequence, but Treasury knew enough to issue an explanatory note on Budget night. 

This suggested the bureaucrats knew exactly what they had done and were trying to claw back revenue to make the books look better. 

Diesel prices were already sky-high, due in no small part to global issues, including the war in Ukraine.

At the time, we pointed out that taking away the FTC would flow through to the price the public paid for goods and services.

Ten days out from Polling Day, we were co-signatories to an industry letter to the Morrison government saying that the flow-on effect of wiping out the FTC could be cost $20 a week for the average family.

The issue of ‘gotcha questions’ had dominated the first two weeks of a largely forgettable federal election campaign, but nobody thought to interrogate either leader on the cost of a head of lettuce.

A few weeks later, and with the price climbing past the $10 mark, who would have thought we’d all be discussing how much people were forking out for a humble Iceberg?

NatRoad’s research examined our industry’s significance to people but not their depth of knowledge about supply chains. Most Aussies know it is complicated and that we’re an important part of it.

NatRoad looks forward to working with the Albanese government and is cautiously optimistic that it ‘gets’ our issues.

Tellingly, our research finds that 37 per cent of Australians who would change their vote are likely or much more likely to support a Member of Parliament who supports our industry.

Hopefully that will provide nutritious food for thought as the new government gets down to business. 

*A Big Mac costs A$6.40 in Australia and US$5.81 in the United States. The implied exchange rate is 1.10. The difference between this and the actual exchange rate, 1.42, suggests the Australian dollar is 22.4 per cent undervalued


Warren Clark is the CEO of the National Road Transport Association.

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