Big new tax on transport a blow to regional towns

I support the comments made by the member for Grey in relation to this road user charge determination disallowance motion moved by the member for Wide Bay.

The member from Grey and I are from regional electorates and we do know about the cost of transport, we do know what job the trucking and transport industry does for us in regional areas and we do know that road transport is basically the artery of our lives, providing us with everything that we use, that we eat and that we build with. It is the artery of life in rural and regional Australia.

Mr Hartsuyker: Absolutely right, member for Forrest!

Ms MARINO: Exactly. We do know, from listening to the member for Grey, that the government’s modelling and process in coming to this increased cost are flawed. I will not go through it again, because the member for Grey has done so.

I know not only that the transport sector is one of the most competitive in Australia but also that a lot of operators in my electorate—and, I suspect, right around Australia—are doing it particularly tough already. The question is: do they need another one of this government’s taxes? No, they do not.

They do not need to help this government recover all of its waste and mismanagement, but that is what they are being used for in this process.

We do know that there is an over-recovery in this program, and we heard the member for Grey express exactly what that was.

I was very interested in one of the Independent’s comments that additional funds for this would be used for other purposes. If it is just about cost recovery, why will additional funds be used for other purposes? Either it is overcharged or it is not.

Either there is sufficient for cost recovery to go to the purpose intended or there is an additional amount being recovered from the transport industry to use for the government’s alternative purposes because of the amount of money they have wasted right across the board.

For owner operators out there, truck drivers—I know a lot of them because I come from the industry—every single cent that adds to their cost of doing business means that they are less likely to be in business, or it is part of their profit margin that is very tight. It is an extremely competitive market and environment.

We know that every single additional burden placed on the trucking companies and their drivers by this government is cumulative. They have seen it over and over and it has not stopped yet—we know the carbon tax will go directly onto fuel in 2014.

They know this is just the next hike in taxes, not the last one.

The compounding impact on regional Australia is far greater than it is anywhere else. But unfortunately this government ignores regional Australia, does not consider how tough it is in regional Australia, does not consider the amount of kilometres we have to do both ways.

My electorate is 12½ thousand square kilometres. So the tax applies both ways.

It is 320 kilometres from Perth. The transport companies in my electorate travel thousands of kilometres interstate, and they are doing these kilometres day after day and night after night.

That is what is required to get all that we need to us in rural and regional Australia. It does need those people to be on the road, to be committed to the work that they do and do well.

What we see is a never-ending litany of government red tape, compliance, tax upon tax, and fees and charges. It is making the transport business not only more expensive but very difficult to manage. We know, as I said earlier, that the transport sector is the lifeblood of rural and regional Australia.

It delivers the staples of life. The government seems to forget that. In rural and regional areas, we do not have choice. If it does not come on the back of a truck to us, it does not come—we do not have it; it does not arrive.

Australia’s 597,000 trucks travel 16.1 billion kilometres a year. It is an industry that employs 220,000 people. It is an extremely vital industry that we in regional areas know we cannot do without. We cannot walk around the corner to a shop.

But even if we did, I guarantee you, even in a city, the majority of goods are delivered on the back of a truck—and those people go all night.

I drive constantly throughout my electorate and I have enormous respect for the industry—not just because I was brought up in the industry but because I see those men and women on the road at all hours of the day and night doing a great job for Australia.

Western Australia has had the highest growth of total interstate road freight—from, to and through—from 1972 to 2007.

As I said, my family is in the road transport, heavy haulage and earthmoving sector. Ay father was a pioneer of cartage, contracting and earthmoving in the south-west of Western Australia and my broader family is still involved.

We were a small business—and my brother is still involved. I know that every single cent that adds to a small business is a cost that basically means they are less profitable, less able to stay in business.

I understand exactly what every additional cent of cost adds to this industry and to these individuals.

Way back in 2007, Australian trucks transported 277 million tonnes of food and animals around our nation. Both the diesel fuel excise rise and the carbon tax will add cost to every single tonne, as will this road user charge.

From what I can understand from listening to the debate today, a fair proportion of this is not going to cost recovery; it is going to go into consolidated revenue and be used for a range of purposes. We know that from what we have heard in the debate today. So that does not stack up.

As the member for Grey mentioned, there is an overcharge of $700 million. We know that it has been a flawed process.

The minister gave a fairly shocking rant earlier, I must say. The minister has never worked in this industry and does not understand how it works and what it takes on the ground.

I would say that owner-drivers will find it very difficult to manage this additional cost impost in spite of what the minister said earlier. In my electorate there are people like Collie Freightlines delivering daily general freight between Perth and the south-west.

Whether you are a courier, or delivering waste bins or involved in freight of any sort, in freight and haulage every cent matters and every additional cost matters.

In spite of what the minister said, not every state minister agrees with this. The transport minister in Western Australia, Troy Buswell, who, incidentally, comes from my electorate, very directly understands the cost. He expressed his concern at those meetings about the additional cost for the transport sector in Western Australia. He understands our distances. Western Australia is a huge state where every additional sent in fuel costs has an impact.

What I have got back from my industry is about the additional cost of not only this but also the carbon tax. They know that this is going to add cost from 2014. It will come in the form of the reduction in the diesel fuel rebate of nearly 7c a litre.

We are not talking fish and chips here. In anybody’s terms, that is an awful lot of money in a fuel bill in any operator’s situation. You know the number of litres it takes for the freight task in this nation—and this is 7c a litre on the truck transport sector from 2014.

So that is what they have got to look forward to—and I am sure they are excited about that. And they are expected to absorb this. These are people who have already spent money on the Euro 5 and Euro 6 engines—they are applying the blue to their engines—and often the actual air that goes in comes out cleaner.

They are doing their bit, and have done so for a long time. But they are going to have to pay a second time. We have got the road user charge and we have got the carbon tax as well. Any truck drivers out there watching this would literally be spitting chips. There is also an assumption that they are making great profits and can absorb this and the carbon tax easily.

I have seen the effect of this in my part of the world with Giacci’s, Leeuwin Transport, Livestock Transporters, AgSpread, Couriers, Meeres, Dino’s Bulk Haulage, Cawara Transport, Piacentini’s, Catalano’s—all of them. South West Express, a local transport company based in Bunbury, has already been hit by the carbon tax—through refrigerant.

They have three trucks whose cooling units have broken down and needed to be replaced. The cost of the refrigerant has gone up by $75 a kilo—and from July, following the imposition of the carbon tax, the cost of replacement gas is going to be $750 more! That is just one example of how this is affecting South West Express.

And they are not the only ones. The amount of refrigerated transport that has to run from the city areas right through to the country areas and interstate is significant. Whereas it might previously have cost South West Express $500 to regas each of their new trucks, it is now over $1,000 a unit. So we are seeing layer upon layer of costs and the government just keeps adding to that—taxing and increasing costs for the transport sector. Some of them can pass on the costs and some of them cannot—in particular, small businesses. And consumers who need to regas their car will find out exactly what this does as well.

So on top of the 2.4c a litre rise in the diesel fuel excise this will mean greater costs and greater impact in regional areas. It is that compounding effect in regional Australia that the government just does not understand or does not want to understand—I am not sure which.

It does not understand or it does not want to understand. We just keep loading up and adding cost to regional and rural businesses and regional and rural Australians. How much of a load does this government expect us to bear out in regional Australia?

It is just compounding, and there is almost an absolute disrespect in the way that this government handles issues affecting rural and regional Australia.

As I said, perhaps the government could argue that we should be grateful for the two-year delay regarding the fuel excise. After all, we do know that mining, marine and rail services are all paying this additional tax right now. They are paying that right now.

But someone should really point out to the Prime Minister that mining, oil and gas production and fishing generally take place in regional areas, so the impact is direct. I do not know where the government thinks Western Australia’s wheat, gas and iron will come from if not a rural and regional area.

Concerns have been highlighted, also, by the Australian Trucking Association, who did not support these reforms, for so many reasons.

The most worrying impact would be as a result of location charging, where it would appear that rural and regional Australia will suffer the consequences. They get it. They operate in our part of the world. They are part of us.

They understand the impacts that this will have on them, their businesses, their drivers. I really want to stand up for the smaller operators in this discussion today. As I said earlier, it is the staples of life that the transport industry delivers to every Australian.

Those of us who live in regional areas have enormous respect for that. We see these men and women working day and night to deliver the staples of life that we need, that we cannot do without.

We hear a lot of complaints about truck drivers, and we do know that a lot of those are totally inaccurate. I would say in this place that I have enormous respect for those who work in this industry in any form of the transport, freight, heavy haulage and earthmoving sector.

I understand the job you do for us. Yes, my family has been and is part of it. That is quite possibly the reason why I have a far greater understanding than this government and many members on the opposite side.