Radical Road Reforms Proposed
The Australian Automobile Association has called for far reaching changes to Commonwealth road funding arrangements, claiming that the existing system is not delivering the best returns because of its highly politicised nature.
Under the changes proposed by the national motoring body, a Federal Roads Corporation would be established to manage Commonwealth road funding responsibilities. These would be extended beyond the current National Highway System and ‘roads of national importance’ to include other strategic routes within states and capital cities linking up with sea ports, airports and other major destinations.
According to the Triple A, the new federal road network should initially be funded by a fuel-based road user charge, which would replace a corresponding amount of Commonwealth fuel excise. Ultimately, it is envisaged that an electronic charging system could be introduced to more closely reflect the costs of road use.
The proposals are contained in a submission to the federal road funding inquiry being conducted by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and Microeconomic Reform.
Executive Director of the Triple A, Lauchlan McIntosh, said today the recommendations were consistent with the policy of microeconomic reform which had already been implemented in most other areas of government responsibility. “Indeed, roads stand out as being the only infrastructure sector not subject to market discipline,” Mr McIntosh said.
“Similarly, because the charge for road use would not be a tax and would go directly to the Roads Corporation, this would represent a significant element of a broad-ranging tax reform process. It is also vital that a distinction is made between general revenue taxes and charges for the use of the roads. Motorists already pay more than enough to cover the cost of road use, including external costs such as noise, emissions and congestion,” he added.
Mr McIntosh said while there was ample evidence of under-investment in roads and particularly urban arterials, there was an urgent need to assess the adequacy of road and transport infrastructure to determine the appropriate level and direction of investment needed to maintain Australia’s international competitiveness.