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ACCC report questions validity of new port taxes

Freemantle Port
Freemantle Port Kirstin Payne

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken a more detailed look into the controversial infrastructure taxes and other surcharges imposed on port transport operators in recent times.

In its 2016-17 Container Stevedore Monitoring report, the ACCC acknowledged that infrastructure taxes imposed by DP World and Patrick raised "a number of issues for the port supply chain”.

It said the taxes left transport carriers with higher operating charges and the inability to switch to other stevedores.

The report also noted the taxes "could earn DP World and Patrick a combined $70million in revenues, which would be equivalent to a 5-6 per cent increase in unit revenues”.

The ACCC added: "It is concerning that truck and rail operators face these higher charges but are limited in their ability to take their business elsewhere.”

DP World and Patrick announced the new taxes earlier this year without consulting Road Freight NSW or other industry groups.

Justifications for these charges included increases in rent, land tax and rates, which were a "cost burden” the businesses could not absorb, and that the new surcharges would be used to fund new infrastructure.

The ACCC then noted: "However, overall unit costs for both stevedores remain stable. The ACCC will be interested to see whether these infrastructure charges are used to improve land- side facilities beyond business-as-usual levels.”

The report packed less of a bite than expected, suggesting the commission was unable to act on some concerns from industry groups about excessive prices as there were no provisions in the act to deal with the issue.

After reviewing the report, Road Freight NSW general manager Simon O'Hara said he welcomed the commission's acknowledgement the port taxes were an issue for hard-working transport carriers.

"We are pleased that the ACCC has listened to concerns raised by Road Freight NSW about the effect port taxes are having on our members,” MrO'Hara said.

"It's encouraging that theACCC has acknowledged the taxes are an issue for the port supply chain and that it will fully examine the impact of the charges in its 2017-18 stevedore report.”

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