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Trucking industry puts forward bushfire assistance plan

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21 January 2020

The disaster recovery allowance, concessional loans, and extension of the instant asset write off have been highlighted in a bushfire recovery plan put forward to the Australian Government by the Australian Trucking Association (ATA). 

Developed by the ATA General Council and presented to the Deputy Prime Minister in a teleconference yesterday, the plan sets out the immediate, medium, and long-term assistance needed by Australian trucking businesses affected by the bushfire crisis. 

“More than twenty industry representatives participated in the development of this proposal, highlighting the industry’s level of concern about the bushfires,” ATA Chair Geoff Crouch said. 

“The impact these fires have had on trucking businesses and their employees is unprecedented. Some have lost their homes, workplaces or equipment. Others have been dealing with prolonged time away from their families, suffering financial loss and personal hardship as a result of road closures and lengthy delays. 

“We appreciate the collaborative consultation process the government is undertaking, and value the opportunity to put the trucking industry’s needs on the bushfire recovery agenda. 

“First and foremost, we have recommended the Disaster Recovery Allowance be made available as a wage subsidy to employers who can demonstrate loss or hardship as a result of the bushfires and that the allowance or any wage subsidy be extended from 13 to 26 weeks. 

“We also believe that the Western Australian Shires of Dundas and Coolgardie should be disaster declared, so owner drivers held up by the closure of the Eyre and Coolgardie-Esperance highways can access the assistance,” he said. 

In terms of concessional loans, the ATA has recommended that small business owners who get concessional loans under the government’s assistance package be able to select monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or yearly repayment terms once their initial repayment and interest holiday comes to an end, maximising the flexibility of loan repayments for these businesses.   

The proposal also recommends the extension of the instant asset write off to enable businesses to secure cashflow advantages. 

“We believe the Government should increase the asset write off to $50,000 for one year only, with the higher write off to come to an end on 1 July 2021. At present, the write off is scheduled to fall from $30,000 to $1000 on 1 July 2020,” Mr Crouch said. 

Mr Crouch said the ATA had called for the postponement of planned increases to truck taxes, which would see businesses pay an extra $132.8 million in 2020-21 compared to 2019-20. 

“Given the cashflow implications of increasing the road user and registration charges, any increases in the road user and registration charges should occur from 1 July 2021 rather than 1 July 2020,” Mr Crouch said. 

“With the industry already struggling as a result of the bushfires, the introduction of this increase in 2020 would only add to their burden,” he said. 

Mr Crouch said for the longer term, the ATA had proposed extending the Farm Management Deposits Scheme to eligible trucking businesses. 

“To help the trucking industry weather future natural disasters, the FMD scheme should be extended to include trucking businesses that receive more than 50 per cent of their income from sectors that currently have access to FMDs,” Mr Crouch said.   

The ATA will put forward additional long-term measures later in the year, and will raise the need for payroll tax concessions directly with state governments. 

The ATA and its member associations collectively represent the 50,000 businesses and 200,000 people in the Australian trucking industry. Together, the ATA and its members are committed to safety, professionalism and viability. 

For information regarding available assistance, head to www.bushfireinfo.business