Albanese’s first budget highlights trouble ahead, warns HVIA

The Albanese government’s first budget, handed down by Treasurer Jim Chalmers in Canberra last night, forecasts skyrocketing energy prices and ongoing inflationary pressures.

Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) chief executive Todd Hacking said the government’s forecast of energy increases as high as 56 per cent over the next two years is dire for large energy consumers, including heavy vehicle manufacturers.

“The Treasurer’s commentary implied some sort of intervention mid-next year, but we need to see action sooner rather than later,” Hacking said.

“The government has recognised the vital role of Australian manufacturing, however the unrelenting pressures being placed on industry are paralysing.

“If the cost of energy is prohibitive, that is not going to protect Australian manufacturing; it will just force more manufacturers offshore, or to just close their doors.

Hacking said Australia’s energy security is already on the table as industry looks to contribute to bringing down emissions in line with the Labor government’s commitment to net zero by 2050.

“Our industry is fully invested in the journey to a low carbon future, however the value proposition to make that transition will not stack up until we address Australia’s out-of-control energy situation.”

The Albanese government’s first budget includes a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund for projects that drive productivity and strengthen supply chain resilience.

“We are encouraged by that news,” Hacking said.

“HVIA will continue to prosecute the case that those government spending priorities need to include Australia’s innovative, world-class heavy vehicle manufacturing industry – the industry that services and supports our vital road transport sector.

“If the last few years have taught us nothing else, surely Australians now understand how crucial the heavy vehicle industry is to our nation’s resilience.

“If it weren’t for our industry standing up in the toughest of times, the supply chain wouldn’t be just stretched – it would be haemorrhaging.

Hacking said the industry’s innovative high productivity combinations enable our freight task to be managed efficiently across extraordinary distances, and in spite of the impediments thrown at us during the pandemic.

“The vehicles and technology produced by our manufacturing sector are the envy of the world, not just for their productivity achievements, but also for their impressive safety records.”

Hacking praised the government’s announcement promising 480,000 fee-free TAFE places and community‑based vocational education places, and the implementation of the New Energy Apprenticeships and New Energy Skills programs.

“Through the HVIA-LITE project, our members and training stakeholders from around Australia are working to progress action on zero emission vehicle skills and training priorities,” Hacking added.

“There is a mix of skills and knowledge required to ensure safety for any technician working on and around high voltage electric heavy vehicles.

“The skill requirements include workplace safety, electrical safety and best practice for body fitment and the fitment of common accessories such as tail lifts and cranes.

“HVIA is also advocating for national consistency in funding arrangements to subsidise electric heavy vehicle training and upskilling of technicians to improve the industry uptake and transition.”

The National Road Transport Association says the federal budget commitment to road infrastructure spending is welcome but is disappointed that time is running out for the instant asset write-off.

The popular measure is due to end in June 2023 and the budget contained no hint that it is being extended.

“We are hopeful the government will have another look before what was always marked as a temporary measure runs out, especially in light of the economic hammering our industry has taken in recent years,” said CEO Warren Clark.

“We hope it’s not dead and buried.

“It was very popular with small businesses and enabled many heavy vehicle operators to upgrade to modern, safer and cleaner vehicles.

“Perhaps we could also have seen some sort of concession to assist operators to move to Euro 6 emissions standards, and we are hopeful that will be in the May budget next year.

“On the plus side of the ledger, we are delighted that the government is delivering on its promise of $80 million for truck rest stops.”

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