Charges: NT and WA break away …

During the past fortnight, both the Northern Territory and the Western Australian Governments have made major announcements on registration charges.

They will not be implementing the registration charges that were approved by the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure (SCOTI) at their meeting on 21 March.

Back on 21 March, the Northern Territory Minister, the Hon Gerry McCarthy, openly voted ‘no’ to the recommendations from the NTC and insisted that his ‘no’ vote be recorded in the Communiqué  following the SCOTI meeting.

That same Communiqué also noted that Western Australia’s Minister, the Hon Troy Buswell, declared that he would ‘apply transitional heavy vehicle charges’.

Both Ministers have now issued statements providing further details of what they’ll be doing.

The Territory and WA are both staging a decisive break-away from the pack, announcing major cuts compared to the official national charges.

… Six-month delay and 3.7% increase in the Territory

On 4 April, Minister McCarthy wrote to the Northern Territory Road Transport Association, announcing his plans.

The Territory will be:

  • Delaying any change to heavy vehicle charges for six months, until 1 January 2013;
  • Applying a flat-rate increase of 3.7% across all heavy vehicles; and
  • Simply cutting A-trailer registration fees to match ordinary semi-trailers.

Road Trains look set to be a couple of thousand dollars cheaper in the Territory than in some neighbouring jurisdictions.

And all kinds of B-coupled vehicles will be four to five thousand dollars cheaper.

An initial NT Government fact sheet listing some of the charges that will apply in the Territory from 2013 is here.

(Note: the NT Government’s fact sheet includes NT-specific surcharges such as CTP. See below for an ALRTA comparison table.)

… 5.7% increase in the West

In WA, on 3 April, Minister Buswell released a statement saying:

“WA did not support the proposed national charging model because it would lead to unacceptable increases in registration charges for WA’s double and triple road trains and B-doubles.

Under the transitional approach WA will adopt the annual adjustment of 5.7 per cent, as calculated by the National Transport Commission, from 1 July 2012.

The adjustment excludes flood reconstruction expenditure, which had been funded from sources other than consolidated revenue to avoid double-counting.”

So, that’s a flat-rate increase of 5.7% on WA’s current charges, which are listed here.

Like the Territory, Minister Buswell’s decision means that WA will be offering registration charges that are thousands of dollars lower than those in any neighbouring jurisdiction that implements the national decision.

 … and more to come from WA?

Minister Buswell hasn’t broken away just from the 2011-12 decision. His statement of 3 April promises to keep charges down in future years too:

“WA will increase its 2013-14 charges with an alternative to the national charging model, which would result in lower registrations for a variety of heavy vehicle combinations in WA.

This approach recognises that charges for double and triple road trains and B-doubles should be considerably less in WA than in the other states and territories due to WA’s particular circumstances. 

It is consistent with the approach taken during the last determination when state and territory governments agreed to transition to national charges over a three-year period.”

(Emphasis added by ALRTA)

Strong competition between the States

Last Friday, all the Premiers came to Canberra for a meeting of COAG (the ‘Council of Australian Governments’), chaired by the Prime Minister.

In the run up to that meeting, the Queensland Premier, the Hon Campbell Newman told The Australian that he’s generally in favour of ‘competitive federalism’ – which that newspaper describes as a strategy where States should “seek a competitive advantage over each other, using lower taxes and less regulation to attract business.”

The recent announcements from the Territory and WA might look to be doing just that.

Charges for   2012-13

NT charges*

WA charges*

National charges*

B-Double (9 axle)

10,994

10,858

14,407

B-Triple (12 axle)

12,466

12,183

17,707

Type 1 Road Train (11 axle)

11,861

11,741

13,857

Type 1 Road Train (tri-dolly, 12 axle)

12,295

12,183

14,407

Type 2 Road Train (18 axle)

15,067

14,834

17,707

BAB-Quad (tri-drive, 19 axle)

16,041

15,653

21,952

Charges for   2012-13

NT charges*

WA charges*

National charges*

Prime mover (single)

4,487

4,574

5,030

Prime mover (Road Train, B-Double)

8,051

8,207

9,457

Prime mover (tri-drive)

8,855

9,026

10,402

A-Trailer

1,472

1,325

3,300

B-Trailer

1,472

1,325

1,650

Dolly (tandem)

867

884

1,100

Dolly (tri)

1,300

1,325

1,650

(Note and disclaimer: State administration fees and insurance charges are not shown in these figures. Entries for NT and WA are ALRTA estimates.)

Will Ministers re-consider?

Last week, a spokeswoman for the South Australian Minister for Transport, the Hon Pat Conlon, gave a written statement to a regional newspaper – the Lincoln Times.

That paper reports that:

“A spokeswoman for Transport Minister Pat Conlon said until the next full meeting in May of the Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure … no further amendments could be made.

The Minister will however continue to listen to industry concerns about the recommendations provided by the NTC, including the increase in charges for road trains, which he intends to discuss with other Ministers in May.”

(Emphasis added by ALRTA)

The date for that meeting has recently been announced: 18 May. Is it possible that the Ministers might re-consider their decision?

ALRTA’s proposals

In the past four weeks, ALRTA’s National Councillors have had a number of meetings and discussions with Ministers around the country.

We’ve certainly been asking Ministers to re-consider the proposed 21% increase on road trains.

The national charging system is meant to be a (crude) user-pays, cost-recovery system.

There won’t be many road train operators who can say they’ve seen a 21% increase in spending on any of the roads they drive. Most dirt roads, outback roads and far-inland regional roads don’t look like they are improving at all, and they’re certainly not 21% better than last year.

More broadly, we’ve asked Ministers:

  • To reconsider other elements of their decision, particularly the 10.4% increase to fuel tax, and to defer all increases until 1 January 2013 if time is needed to do that;
  • To limit the total impact on industry to no more than 5.7% in a single year; but still
  • To deliver a reduction in A-Trailer charges while working within that limit.

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