FARMERS will pay more to get livestock and produce to markets and food consumers will pay more at the check-out with increases in transport charges and fees in the Federal Budget, farmer bodies and truckies believe.
The increase in road transport costs is a counterpoint to the significant $14.6 billion in general community cost of living relief components in the budget.
The government will increase the Heavy Vehicle Road User Charge rate from 27.2 cents per litre of fuel in 2023–24 to 32.4c/l in 2025–26, expecting to raise about $1.1 billion.
Truckies are also facing increases in vehicle registration fees from about $15,500 for a B-Double in Victoria now to nearly $16,500 in the next year and to $18,000 the following year.
However, the road transport industry expects to pass these increased cost onto farmers and freight users, and ultimately to consumers, and claims the transparency of fee collection and expenditure on roads needs auditing.
“It’s going to be passed onto the cockies to get their sheep to the market, so that is going to impact what they spend on other stuff and it’s going go down the line to the abattoir getting meat to the supermarket and distribution centres, so all that is going to be passed onto the end consumer,” Livestock Road Transport Association of Victoria president Russell Borchard said.
“So at the end of the day it is all going to be passed on, because businesses are already running on a fine line now, as we’ve seen with the amount of transport businesses that have shut their doors over the past 12 months because of tight margins.
“There is no way known that the transport industry can absorb this, it is going to have to be passed on.”
Mr Borchard the sector knew there would be an increase in the HVRUC.
“”We put in a proposal through the ARLTA for a three percent increases not a 6pc (rise), so it’s definitely a lot better than 10 percent.
“We would still like to see more transparency from the government on how they are collating their figures for the road user charge seeing they are saying we need to put more in – it’s not very clear cut, it’s a bit wishy-washy,” he said.
“We also knew there would be an increase of some sort, but it will definitely get passed on down to the end consumer.”
The Federal Government has allocated $110 million-per-year Black Spot Program in the budget to work with state, territory and local governments to improve road safety across the nation.
It has also allocated $43.6 million for the new National Road Safety Action Grants Program over four years from 2022-23. The NRSAGP provides non-infrastructure grants to help implement the National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-25 with a focus on First Nations road safety, vulnerable road users, community education and awareness, technology, innovation, research and data.
Also $16.5 million will go to the Car Safety Ratings Program to improve testing protocols for new light vehicles and provide safety evaluations for used vehicles.
Continual delivery of road safety improvements through the Road Safety Program, with $976.7 million available across 2023-24 and 2024-25, will build on the more than 1400 projects delivered to date, the Federal Government said.
However, Mr Borchard said the roads are in “ill-repair” now, with State Government and councils blaming flooding for their condition.
“Whereas we don’t believe that’s the case at all; it’s the lack of maintenance on the roads in a lot of cases.
“It (flooding) has made it worse, but also the road repairs they are doing aren’t really up to scratch either.”
Mr Borchard said he is not convinced that the revenue from road users is going back into road repair and maintenance.
“No, I’m not, and that’s the problem; they are using the transport industry as a milking cow for other parts of the government spending.
“And that’s the biggest problem I’ve got, that all the money we are paying isn’t going back into the roads, and that’s what needs to happen,” he said.
“There needs to be a proper audit of where all this money is going.
“The people at councils in governments need to be held more accountable on where they are spending the money, because they are just throwing figures at us which isn’t very detail at all,” Mr Borchard said.
‘Cost of living’ budget a missed opportunity – NFF
The National Farmers Federation said the ‘cost of living’ budget is a missed opportunity to address food price inflation.
National Farmers’ Federation president, Fiona Simson, said the budget does nothing to get to the heart of rampant food price inflation – which NFF polling shows is weighing on the minds of 8 in 10 Australians.
“We know that Australians are feeling the pinch of their weekly shop.
“This budget ignores practical solutions that could have provided a double-whammy of price relief for households and a stronger more vibrant agriculture sector.”
The NFF said calls for urgent funding to repair and improve Australia’s regional and rural road network have gone unanswered by the budget.
“Over the past few months alone, devastating floods have swallowed crops and pastures and caused major infrastructure damage, creating heartache for farmers and food shortages in our supermarkets.
“The $250 million in new funding committed is barely a drop in the ocean in terms of what’s needed,” she said.
“Repairing our roads means strengthening our connection to markets, making food more available and more affordable for Australians.
“This is a missed opportunity to bring down costs in the food supply chain.”
AgForce also sees grocery prices rising
Queensland’s AgForce has also warned consumers the cost of groceries will continue to rise, claiming it was a Federal Budget of “missed opportunities” that seeks to further tax rural communities.
The farmer organisation believes the ‘cost of living budget’ has ignored many practical solutions that could have eased financial strain and strengthened the agriculture industry.
AgForce general president Georgie Somerset said there were some “considerable gaps” in the budget that needed to be addressed.
“Overall, it’s really disappointing; I think there were some real opportunities that have been missed and that’s a real shame for consumers and our farming community.
“It will ultimately hit shoppers in the pocket when they get to the checkouts,”
AgForce said the plan to take a protection levy totalling $153 million from farmers’ pockets over three years from 2024-25 for biosecurity would mean a grass-fed cattle producer will pay an extra 50 cents per head and a cotton producer will pay an extra 22.5 cents per 227 kg bale.
AgForce said the budget also fell short in delivering the sought after funding injection into road infrastructure, critical to lift productivity and reduce the cost of production in the de-centralised state. The body said raising the heavy vehicle road user charge by six per cents per year over three years would have significant implications for our supply chain and rural communities.
Ms Somerset said the budget had done nothing to take the pressure of the nation’s food and fibre providers.
“Obviously we were looking for consistent biosecurity funding, but we weren’t looking for farmers to be funding it.
“Farmers are already a significant contributor to this system and so the move to have them foot even more of the bill is disappointing to say the least,” she said.
“Looking at the cost of living, this is only likely to further increase the price of food and consumers will pay the price.
“As far as the roads are concerned, we need significant investment in infrastructure, and not just where we’ve had damage, but to actually finish our road networks and get those supply chain pathways firmed up for agriculture,” she said.
“It’s a critical expense and if we don’t keep investing in it, eventually we’ll end up playing a very expensive game of catch up.”
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