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Written on the 20 February 2012

I rise with pleasure to speak on the Port Management Amendment (Port of Melbourne Corporation Licence Fee) Bill 2011. Like Mrs Coote and Ms Pennicuik, who have also spoken on the bill, I have a large section of the port in my electorate of Southern Metropolitan Region. Many aspects of this issue impact on our region.

 



As has been said by government members, this bill will replace Labor's inefficient and unfair freight infrastructure charge (FIC) with a fairer, simpler licence fee.

 


In a number of contributions -- in particular Ms Pulford's -- it was said that the licence fee is a great big new tax, and there were a number of interjections from the opposition in relation to this being a great big new tax. This amused and bemused me, because I think the only great big new tax that Victorians are concentrating on at the moment is the carbon tax. That is seriously a great big new tax. This is a faster, fairer, simpler licence fee, and this bill is an example of the coalition government getting on with fixing up something that was done by the previous Labor government. The bill will go a long way towards cutting unnecessary regulation and red tape, which would have affected a lot of businesses across Victoria, and introducing a far simpler process in this area.

 


In Mr Drum's and Mrs Coote's contributions we heard about farming communities' concerns about the previous government's charge known as the truck tax and how it would have impacted upon their businesses.

 


In fact if that tax had gone ahead, it would have added to the list of disastrous decisions Labor made when in government. I refer to the desalination plant; I cannot go without mentioning that, because it is an impost on the Victorian taxpayer of almost $2 million each and every day. We all know about myki and the huge burden that placed on taxpayers.

 


[Ms Pulford interjected].
 

 

Ms Pulford called this a great big new tax. I say to her that myki is a burden on Victorian taxpayers.
 

 

The bill introduces a port licence fee. It will be a flat annual fee of $75 million paid annually and indexed to CPI. It is far preferable to Labor's FIC, which would have taxed the hundreds of trucks that enter the port of Melbourne every day. It would have created massive costs for the trucking industry, which is already facing challenges with the higher cost of petrol and the soon-to-be-introduced carbon tax.
 

 

The cost imposition proposed by Labor was of particular concern to the many small trucking operators and businesses throughout Victoria, who simply could not bear another cost impost on the day-to-day running of their businesses. This is a far simpler and less complex way of getting rid of what was proposed under the previous government. That regulatory burden would have amounted to some $100 million, should it have been put in place. As Mrs Coote pointed out, there was a shortfall of $25 million in relation to its annual cost of $75 million.
 

 

The Port of Melbourne Corporation licence fee will avoid the establishment of a large and inefficient bureaucracy in order to collect revenue. It will avoid targeting one particular industry that uses the ports, it will ensure that fees can be more equitably distributed through the passing on of costs and it will avoid another Labor blunder -- the impost on Victorian taxpayers of $100 million with the establishment of the FIC.
 

 

In his contribution Mr Drum pointed out that there has been support from various parts of industry. The Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry congratulated the minister on his consultation. On its blog site VECCI says:
 

 

'VECCI has been a long-time advocate for removing the FIC and we're glad the state government consulted with industry and acknowledged our concerns about the red tape burden the FIC would impose on operators using the port.'
 

 

Phil Lovel, chief executive of the Victorian Transport Association, is reported to have endorsed the new system and said he is pleased the government listened to concerns raised by the trucking industry. He is also reported to have said:
 

 

'Scrapping the previous government's tax on trucks using Swanson Dock, is the right decision ...'

 

 

'The new licence fee on the Port of Melbourne Corporation is much simpler, more cost effective and does not place an administrative burden on the trucking industry.'

 


That is a fairly significant and overwhelming endorsement in relation to the previous so-called charge that was going to be imposed on that industry.
 

 

Mrs Coote made a point about the size of the port of Melbourne.
 

 

It is the busiest container port in the country. In the second-reading speech the minister said that last year it accounted for approximately 36 per cent of the national container trade and that the movement of containers is expected to quadruple by 2030. To keep our economy strong and competitive, rather than allowing an impost on businesses throughout Victoria, such as the previous government's proposed FIC, we will allow a port to charge a fee. We need to help businesses to flourish.
 

 

With that contribution, I conclude by saying I am pleased the minister has taken into consideration many of the issues that were raised by the trucking industry that would have affected many small, and indeed large, businesses across the state. Like other members of the government, I support this bill and commend it to the house, and I will not be supporting Ms Pulford's amendment.


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