Budget: Industry set to benefit from key projects


Roads and freight projects hailed but state response mixed

Budget: Industry set to benefit from key projects
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg

 

The transport and infrastructure initiatives in the 2019/20 Budget, to be implemented by the Coalition government should it win the next election, have been welcomed warmly in most quarters of the industry – with a few notable exceptions.

In particular, the funding allocated to projects such as Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI), Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI) and the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy were greeted with enthusiasm by peak bodies.

The responses indicate an improved outlook for industry following concerns around underspending in previous Budgets.

However, the union, some states, and electric vehicle sectors were some of the main vocal opponents of the document.

ROADS AND FREIGHT PROJECTS LAUDED

The Australian Logistics Council (ALC) lauds the commitment to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, including the establishment of the Freight Data Hub.

"The Budget makes a number of investments that will be welcomed by the freight logistics sector and will help boost the effectiveness of a finalised National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy," ALC CEO Kirk Coningham says.

"The ultimate success of the National Strategy will depend on our ability to monitor and measure the performance of our supply chains, so that we can make the right infrastructure investments and rectify bottlenecks in our freight network."

"The Budget has recognised this by providing $5.2 million to allow the establishment of a freight data hub that can collect data regarding supply chain performance, and make that data available to governments, industry and investors.

"Many of the Budget investments made in the Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) initiative have a freight focus and target areas where significant upgrades to road infrastructure are needed, including better access to ports."

"ALC particularly welcomes the ROSI investments announced for Northern Australia, which will play an increasingly important role in exports of Australian goods to growing Asian markets and boosting our international competitiveness."

The ALC was, however, disappointed that the Biosecurity Imports Levy will go ahead and is set to start on September 1, 2019.


Read where funding has been allocated in the 2019/20 Budget, here


The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) was the beneficiary of an $8 million allocation to carry out structural assessment of vital local government bridges, roads and culverts.

NHVR chair Duncan Gay says the funding provided would allow the NHVR and local road managers to properly assess the integrity of many local government road assets.

"This assessment is vital to allow road managers to open up new heavy vehicle networks and boost local economies by ensuring freight is moved efficiently," Gay says.

"With federal support for proper infrastructure assessment the NHVR can now work with local road managers to improve networks by better understanding the bottlenecks for freight movements.

"This outcome is a vital win for the heavy vehicle industry and the supply chain."

The NHVR also lauded increase in funding for the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative program by almost 40 per cent.

MIXED STATE RESPONSE

The aforementioned northern Australia is a priority in the ROSI initiative, and Road Freight NSW called it a "strong federal budget for roads".

However, the picture isn’t as rosy elsewhere.

SA Freight Council points out that Budget figures for South Australia reveal transport infrastructure funding for the state will plummet over the next four years.

"Budget Paper 3, Appendix B clearly outlines the poor infrastructure outcome this Budget would deliver for SA over the estimates period, with transport infrastructure funding collapsing from $738.2 million this financial year for SA to only $289.5 million in 2021/22," notes SA Freight Council executive officer Evan Knapp.

"None of the $2.7 billion for future North South Corridor works has made it into the forward estimates.

"Only $48.2 million of the promised $220 million of Roads of Strategic Importance (ROSI) funding for the Eyre, Sturt and Goyder Highways is made available. Even under a 10-year funding scenario, we would have expected at least $88 million."

The Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) highlighted the positives and negatives in its appraisal.

"We do welcome the extra support for the M1, Gateway and Bruce Highway but in comparison to the other Eastern states on infrastructure the imbalance continues. 

"Australia has the fifth largest freight task in the world and Queensland accounts for about 20% of the task.

"Along with other road users we expect a fairer share in particular for the bridge network."  

The Victorian Government also continues its criticism on funding allocation for the state, saying its share of the national infrastructure spend is only 17.7 per cent over the next five years, despite the state having more than 26 per cent of the population, equating to only $5 billion to the state government’s $42.5 billion.

The tone was much more conciliatory from the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), which welcomed an improvement on previous "underspending", also noting operators will benefit from an increase to the instant asset write-off threshold by 20 per cent to $30,000, which is expanding to medium-sized businesses turning over less than $50 million annually.

"Victoria is leading the nation in terms of economic development, population growth and construction so it is deserving of the level of spending and investment contained in the budget so that our infrastructure can keep pace with this growth," VTA CEO Peter Anderson says.

"As vital as the new measures contained in the budget are to address this, it is just as important that the Commonwealth and Victorian governments work together in a bi-partisan way if we are to truly overcome our transport challenges."

UNION CALL ON SAFETY

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) continues to attack the Coalition on its approach towards heavy vehicle safety, questioning the perceived ambiguity around the function of the $6 million ‘Office of Road Safety’.

"For an industry with the highest rate of workplace deaths there is no mechanism for addressing the risks to drivers and how to make their jobs safer," TWU national secretary Michael Kaine says.

"If this is the Federal Government’s attempt to make up for its tearing down of a road safety watchdog three years ago then it is far off the mark.

 "We need accountability in our industry, transport operators are crying out for it and drivers are dying because of the lack of it.

"The ALP plans for this body [road safety office] to operate in conjunction with a system of Safe Rates aimed at lifting standards in transport and tackling pressure on trucking from wealthy clients.

"Without this element, fundamental deadly risks will continue in trucking which no amount of new technologies or upgraded roads will fix.

"This crisis is real and the Government is throwing money at projects that won’t solve it."

ELECTRIC VEHICLES 

For those interested in the electric vehicle space, only $400,000 is allocated towards a for a national electric vehicle strategy, "leaving Australia stalled on the sidelines of the electric vehicle revolution while the rest of the world zips us by," Australian Greens transport spokesperson Janet Rice says, who labelled the allocation "a joke".

 

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