Let’s push rego and road user charges down and give our industry a break

road user charges, Budget submission, NatRoad, heavy vehicle registration charges,
NatRoad has joined the Budget submission procession by asking the Government to put downward pressure on future increases to the registration and road user charges.

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By Warren Clark

It’s that time of year when every industry is seeking an audience with politicians. Most roads lead to Canberra, and Federal Budget submissions are thicker on the ground than potholes on a regional highway.

The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has joined the Budget submission procession by asking the Government to put downward pressure on future increases to the road user and registration charges.

We think it’s the least they can do.

Our industry is enduring the most difficult economic and regulatory operating environment in living memory.

Most of the industries are small businesses working on incredibly tight margins. They have limited ability to pass on costs.

That’s why we have used our fiscal wish list to ask the Government to create a budget specifically for Commonwealth-State infrastructure projects.

Rises in the Road User Charge would be pegged against it, based on annual reviews of the effectiveness of government infrastructure spending.

The existing heavy vehicle road user charging system is broken. It’s going to look even more so when revenue from fuel excise inevitably falls away as the country decarbonises.

Increases in the Road User Charge are currently driven by rises in infrastructure funding.

There’s no accounting for the effectiveness of how the states are spending our money, the ability of industry to pay, or ensuring that the right priorities are being funded.

If a state or territory doesn’t effectively manage its infrastructure spending, it shouldn’t be rewarded.

NatRoad raised eyebrows late last year when it welcomed the Government’s National Infrastructure Statement. It was an attempt to repair the infrastructure pipeline.

There is a tipping point where too much spending results in increased contract competition and costs. Basically, the value for money spent reduces drastically and governments need to co-ordinate better.

There would still be scope for the Commonwealth to give extra funds to states for issues like natural disasters.

The cap on Infrastructure spending would be subject to reviews ensuring that inadequate road quality is maintained.

What we do need to get included in spending decisions are National Road Service Level Standards so funding goes to where it is needed most.

The wheels of government decision-making take time to move.

The idea may not make it into the 2024-25 Budget speech when the Treasurer rises to his feet on the floor of the House of Representatives on the second Tuesday in May, however it needs serious consideration for the years that follow.

NatRoad has also repeated its call for the establishment of a $3.5 billion Clean Transport Fund to assist the road freight industry transition to net zero.

We first proposed this in our Decarbonisation White Paper late last year.

Additionally, we are calling for a reduction in red tape to fast-track investment in better heavy vehicle road access mechanisms like the planned National Automated Access System. It’s also time to roll out rapid economic appraisals for the opening up as-of-right access and to extend the Strategic Local Government Asset Assessment Project to improve access decision making.