Freight link causes an ag stink

26 Dec, 2014 01:00 AM
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Cattle transporter John Leeds, Muchea, said the proposed Perth Freight Link had the potential to do enormous damage to the agricultural industry.
Every farmer will be touched by this.
Cattle transporter John Leeds, Muchea, said the proposed Perth Freight Link had the potential to do enormous damage to the agricultural industry.

A FARMER tax.

That is how Livestock and Rural Transport Association of WA president Stephen Marley has labelled the WA Government's plan to charge heavy freight users of the proposed new Perth Freight Link.

Mr Marley said more and more costs together with increased administration and red tape were being placed on industry and these costs would inevitably be passed on to member clients through higher freight charges to WA farmers.

Mr Marley said his association was also unaware that the Link would stretch to Muchea.

"We thought it would be from the freeway to Fremantle, now it has being extended to Muchea," he said.

Mr Marley said anything related to agriculture would be impacted.

"Everything to do with farming will be carted on that road – fertiliser, fuel, lime, livestock carting, wool. Everything is going to get hit," he said.

"Every farmer will be touched by this. It is a farmer tax.

"Farmers will be paying to solve Perth's congestion problem, because the Premier is too frightened to charge Perth motorists."

Mr Marley said if the government is going to introduce a toll, then everyone who uses the road should pay.

"The cost should be shared, not dumped on rural and regional WA, people who don't personally use the road but have everything they need to run their business using it.

"I feel for the farming industry, it is going to cop it."

Under the plan, trucks will be charged a per kilometre toll along 85 kilometres of highway from Muchea to Fremantle to pay for the new link.

All trucks longer than 3.2m will be subject to the per kilometre charge.

When announcing the Freight Link last week Premier Colin Barnett said it would remove up to 500 trucks a day from Leach Highway and provide a more efficient and direct freight line to Fremantle Port.

Referred to as a Heavy Vehicle User Charge – a per kilometre charge on heavy vehicles only for the freight route between Muchea and Fremantle – the charge is planned to start once the road is finished and eventually recoup part of the cost of the project to the State.

Mr Barnett said the Perth Freight Link – which will start with the Roe 8 project and extend Roe Highway through to Stock Road – would transform the southern suburbs of Perth.

"The Perth Freight Link will complete the strategic link in Perth's road network by creating an east-west freight connection between Kewdale, Fremantle Port and southern industrial areas," Mr Barnett said.

"This project will result in improved safety for all road users, reduced traffic congestion, fewer trucks on urban roads and significant freight industry productivity improvements.

"All works on the Perth Freight Link should be completed by mid-2019, with some of the infrastructure due to open by mid-2017 - including the first leg of the Roe Highway extension."

The Federal Government has already committed $925 million to the Perth Freight Link.

The State Government's $650m is made up of $59m already committed to High Street upgrades and $591m in new money.

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) also attacked the pay-to-drive freight corridor.

It said the proposed toll was poor economic policy that will decrease farmers' capacity to compete in the world marketplace.

"Farmers are dependent on road freight not only to get their products to port, but also to receive important imports such as fuel and fertiliser," PGA president Tony Seabrook said.

"We are price takers, not price fixers and any increase on our costs will only make us less competitive.

"This new tax will significantly impact on the competitiveness of our rural industries, cutting into the bottom lines of many farm businesses as freight operators pass on their toll and compliance costs to the one group that cannot pass the costs on, the WA farmer.

"Heavy vehicles already pay substantial fees for road use and most of these vehicles do not contribute to the congestion in Perth, so why should they be slugged with another tax?

"We support the construction of this essential freight corridor however believe it is the responsibility of the State Government to provide basic transport infrastructure, such as this, from General Revenue."

WAFarmers president Dale Park said it was just another cost impost on the farming community.

"My question is why aren't the people who are going to get benefit out of it charged," Mr Park said.

"They say it is going to save truck drivers 45 cents a kilometre, well I would like to see the numbers because I am going to battle to believe them.

"Is that saving versus using the Great Eastern Highway or Roe Highway as it is now? I don't think so.

"We don't expect a great deal from our government, but what we do expect is actually make exporting out of this State easier, but they seem to do just about everything and anything to make it harder."

Opposition Transport and Agriculture spokesman Ken Travers said the link would hit farmers the most.

"Farmers are price takers. They can't change the price they get for their wheat or sheep and this is just another cost on their bottom line which comes off their profitability," Mr Travers said.

When asked if Labor would drop the toll if it won the next election in 2017, Mr Travers said it would have to know what legal obligations it had to do so.

"Certainly I am not a supporter of tolls and if I can get rid of it I would, but the questions we face come next election is are we able to?" he said.

"Will there be contracts signed with the Federal Government or private sector that locks us into this.

"My position would be that if I can I would get rid of it, but until we get more detail and work out what our capacity is to remove it, we will then be very clear before the election about what we are going to do.

"My understanding is that it needs legislation to look at this and I would expect we would oppose that legislation when it comes into parliament.

"To me the best thing at this stage is to stop it."

Transport Minister Dean Nalder said the Perth Freight Link would deliver substantial benefits to transport operators.

"Truck drivers will save an estimated nine and a half minutes per trip between the Kwinana Freeway and Fremantle, and $8.15 in vehicle operating costs. They will also bypass 14 sets of traffic lights, resulting in less delay and frustration for heavy vehicles," Mr Nalder said.

"We are introducing a User Charge for all Heavy Vehicles using the Perth Freight Link, Northlink WA and Gateway WA road systems from Muchea down to the Port of Fremantle.

"The truck operator will also keep part of the financial benefit which comes from things like using less fuel, less strain on engines and tyres and quicker journey times.

"There is an emerging understanding in the transport industry that the $3.7 billion investment in Northlink WA, Gateway WA and Perth Freight Link projects will provide a more efficient and freer-flowing 85km link from Muchea to the Port of Fremantle – and this delivers enormous economic benefits to the transport industry – and the producers who use them."

In response to concerns from the agricultural and trucking industries, Mr Nalder said there would be further consultation with the trucking industry before the details were finalised.

"We've started talking to industry already about this and the response has been positive," he said.

"They see the big productivity gains which will be delivered."

The Minister said the proposed Heavy Vehicle User Charge would only start once the entire link was up and running in 2019.

Travis King

Travis King

Is a journalist for Farm Weekly
Date: Newest first | Oldest first

READER COMMENTS

Deregul8
27/12/2014 6:51:37 AM, on Farm Weekly

You can be sure if the govt ever decides to reinvest in rail, it will be funded by a very significant grower levy. That's one of the reasons why it is so important farmers gain access to their CBH equity. Tough times are coming for Australia and govts will no longer be able to afford investment. We must make our balance sheets as strong as is humanly possible for inevitable higher costs. Farmers should never underestimate the potential for our red tape base to explode because clearly it is happening as we speak. Our costs are vulnerable to govt distortion.
Bob
9/04/2015 12:44:07 AM, on Farm Weekly

What's the issue exactly? The project will save about $8 per trip for the average freight operation. His costs will be $8 lower. Is it unreasonable to ask he pays a few dollars in a usage charge to help taxpayers recoup the cost of a project that benefits him?

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