While this is now a crisis for the NTC, no one should be happy. This is also a threat to industry.
If the States start setting registration charges on their own, even though they will be doing this to help us out, there is no guarantee that they will stop. And there is no guarantee that they will set charges at the same level as each other.
Anyone with a long memory, or anyone who’s read through all the Royal Commissions and Inquiries into this industry, knows exactly where this ends up, because we’ve seen it all before.
The States start getting greedy. They figure that by undercutting their neighbours, they can pull vehicles into their State and earn extra registration revenue. But within two years, their neighbours retaliate, and the undercutting grows even deeper.
So what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that a great deal for industry?
No, it’s not. The State that always pulls out from this game of chicken is always NSW. Because 75% of interstate freight in this country passes through NSW, the State Treasury will never let NSW simply give away road funding.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with the old DMR from the 1970’s, the unlamented RTA, or the new Roads and Maritimes Services Agency: the NSW Treasury will tell the NSW road manager to get the money back, or find another way to save costs.
Why did NSW always have the lowest gross weights in the country for 30 years; the highest registration; the special ‘weight tax’; and the largest law enforcement workforce in the country?
Because NSW Treasury always wants to get its money back.
Why did the Hawke Government set up the FIRS scheme? Why did it set up the NTC? The single most important reason was to get rid of the huge roadblock created in NSW and stop the undercutting and lack of uniformity across the States.
It may take some years to unfold, but the crisis facing the NTC is also a threat to us.