Commonwealth Must Repay Motorists $3 Billion In Road Funding


The Australian National Audit Office report released yesterday is a damning indictment of successive Transport Ministers since 1993 who have failed to ensure that there has been a full and proper allocation of funds to national highways.


The Report reveals that National Highway funding was $3 billion below the default amount required under the Act between 1993 and 1999. For the Prime Minister to describe this as an "error" is an understatement of monumental proportions. It is a very serious matter.


The Executive Director of the AAA, Lauchlan McIntosh, said the report also reveals that there has been an appalling lack of coordination and planning and indicates that the Commonwealth has little idea of what the priorities and needs are of the road network.


"The Report highlights the urgent need for complete reform of the fuel tax and road funding system which is clearly in disarray. And what is staggering is that the Minister’s own Department accepts virtually all the recommendations in the Report and by doing so, accepts the findings, which are damning in the extreme.


"I find it extraordinary that the Minister is attempting to defend the situation by including Commonwealth allocations to local and state government and arguing that the 4.95 cent target has been met. The Audit report deals exclusively with the National Highway network. Under the Act the Minister either tables a declaration reducing the funding or allocates the full 4.95 cents to National Highways.


"It is significant that the report states that: ‘ANAO could find no correlation between the performance indicators, the agreed road conditions to be achieved by the States and the annual funding allocation to be provided by the Commonwealth’.


"Motorists have every right to be very angry. Clearly the management of roads by the Commonwealth is in disarray. Motorists are paying more and more in fuel tax and receiving extremely poor value for their money.


"To give an indication of just how serious this funding shortfall is, if the $3 billion had been allocated, the Western Sydney Orbital, the Cragieburn bypass on the Hume Highway, the Deer Park bypass on the Western Highway and the freeway to Shepparton could now be complete and without tolls. As well the Pacific Highway could be 70 to 80% dual carriageway, not 50% as we are told it is going to be.


"Clearly the Commonwealth cannot pull $3 billion out of the budget hat at short notice, but it does owe this money to motorists via the National Highway network. And as both the Government and the Opposition are at fault, we calls on them both to publicly commit to an additional national road program with a strong road safety element, to repay motorists for the $3 billion shortfall," Mr. McIntosh said.

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