Opinion

Budget injects confidence into the transport sector

After a year punctuated by a pandemic, natural disasters, trade disputes, and a narrowly avoided long-term recession, the recently released Federal Budget contains investment measures that are necessary to sustain and boost confidence in the transport industry.

While all federal and state budgets shape the future of our nation, this one sets out the roadmap for navigating Australia through the next phase of the pandemic and building on the momentum of our economic recovery. Not since World War II has so much seemed to hinge on the figures and directives outlined in the budget papers.

As one might expect whenever there’s a significant focus on creating jobs and kickstarting the economy, this budget invests in a number of major infrastructure projects, committing an additional $15.2 billion towards road, rail and community infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.

Victoria is set to receive a much needed $4 billion of that spend to ensure its infrastructure can keep up with its population growth. This is allocated to a number of key projects, including $380 million for the Packenham Roads Upgrade, $250 million for the Monash Roads Upgrade, and an additional $20 million for the Green Triangle. The biggest, and arguably most important, of the projects identified in the 2021-2022 budget is the creation of a new Melbourne intermodal terminal. This vital piece of infrastructure will accommodate the Inland Rail Project and its double-stacked, 1800-metre trains, connecting the state’s port, road and rail networks.

The VTA has long called for action and investment to ease congestion on the state’s transportation networks, now and into the future. With the pandemic and various border closures highlighting just how precarious our supply chains can be, it is welcoming to see a budget that puts measures in place to keep our freight networks moving despite what future challenges may be in store.

In addition to various national infrastructure projects, the budget also commits an additional $1 billion towards the national Road Safety Program and $28.6 million to establish a National Freight Data Hub. These two initiatives will help the freight and logistics industry operate safer and make smarter, more informed decisions – both of which will go a long way to supporting the productivity and sustainability of our industry.

The budget also provides some very welcome economic relief to operators in the form of an extension to the temporary full-expensing measure announced in last year’s budget. This will allow freight and logistics businesses with up to $5 billion in aggregated annual turnover or income to deduct the full cost of eligible depreciable assets of any value – a much-needed financial lifeline after a difficult 14 or so months.

It’s true that no budget can be all things to all people.

Yet, on the whole, this year’s budget evokes a certain sense of optimism, particularly when it comes to meeting the country’s future freight needs.

By investing in projects designed to remove congestion at key choke points, streamline freight movements, and, in the form of the intermodal terminal, encourage smarter connectivity between our various freight networks, operators can be hopeful about the future. This, combined with greater tax relief for businesses and ongoing investment in road safety should support operators in their ongoing quest to improve productivity.

And so I commend the federal government on delivering a budget that not only seeks to steer us through these uncertain economic times, but recognises the vital role that infrastructure and freight has to play in that journey.

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