VTA opposes new tax

Victorian Transport Association (VTA) CEO, Philip Lovel AM has described the proposed Freight Infrastructure Charge as nothing but a big new tax on transport and international trade.

The Victorian Government plans to levy this new charge on trucks entering international container stevedoring terminals in the Port of Melbourne from mid-2011.

Despite the first round of public consultations on the proposed charge taking place in early May by the Victorian Department of Transport and the Port of Melbourne Corporation, The VTA and its members are against the Government’s motives and the proposed structure of the charge.

“The Government wants to collect $1 billion from this charge over the next decade to contribute to the $38 billion Victorian Transport Plan. The fact that the Government is looking to raise revenue from industry to help pay for its transport infrastructure commitments is one thing. But, its plan to impose the levy on trucks in the Port of Melbourne, as opposed to the containers being carried is ill-formed, half-baked and a recipe for disaster,” said Mr. Lovel.

“Having now been made aware formally about the Government’s intentions, it’s clear that the Department of Transport, the Port of Melbourne Corporation, and indeed the Government, don’t understand the container transport chain, particularly the commercial and operational circumstances of road transport companies who are getting on with the vital job of moving imports, exports and empty containers to and from the Port of Melbourne.

“The Government states that an objective of the proposed charge is to encourage off peak use of roads by trucks accessing the Port of Melbourne, and to reduce peak hour congestion. What the Government seems to not understand is that road carriers are already moving towards 24/7 operations as trade volumes grow and as weekends, including Sunday since October 2008 at one international container stevedoring terminal, become normal operational days.”

He continued, “If the customer wants the import container at their premises by 8am in the morning, then irrespective of whether the container has been collected from the stevedore the night before, a truck will be in the peak hour traffic stream that morning delivering the container to meet the customer’s needs. Therefore, any ‘peak pricing’ component in the proposed Freight Infrastructure Charge will be meaningless in terms of influencing behaviour.”

“It’s difficult enough for transport operators to get an adequate return on these vital investments, let alone arguing with their customers about paying the Freight Infrastructure Charge as well.

“But the stark reality is that the transport industry will not have the capacity to absorb any Freight Infrastructure Charge and will need to pass it onto customers or go broke, it’s as simple as that!

“We maintain that if the Government wants to collect additional revenue to invest in transport infrastructure directly or indirectly associated with trade through the Port of Melbourne, then the charge should be applied to containers, not to trucks.”
The VTA has said it will fight the implementation of this charge and is hoping to put together a plan to do this both legally and politically.

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