Road Policies Stuck in the Slow Lane
Increases in road expenditure promised by the Federal Government and Opposition would go a long way towards fixing the roads, but only if the two amounts were added together, according to the Australian Automobile Association. The national motoring body's Executive Director, Lauchlan McIntosh, said today that, while both Parties' road policies included extra funds and other worthwhile initiatives, each fell well short of what was needed.
Promises of an additional $150 million for roads over three years by Labor and an additional $195 million over an unspecified period by the Coalition needed to be compared with the Federal Department of Transport's recommendation that funding for the National Highway alone should be increased by $275 million a year. To put the promises into perspective, if the Coalition's extra $195 million was shared among scheduled road projects, it would pay for:
- upgrading 5km in NSW and 1.7km in Victoria of the Hume Highway at Albury-Wodonga*;
- 3.3km of the Gunalda Range deviation south of Bundaberg, Queensland*;
- extending the Mitchell Freeway in WA by 1km a year for four years*;
- building overtaking lanes on the Dukes Highway, SA, between Tailem Bend and the Victorian border*;
- junction upgrades along the Bass and Midland Highways in Tasmania*;
- 2.6km of the Palmerston by-pass to duplicate the Stuart Highway in the NT;
- and a study to investigate future route options for the Barton Highway between the ACT border and Yass.
"Moreover, motorists will have already paid for most of the promised funding through increases in fuel tax resulting from the twice-yearly adjustment of excise rates in line with inflation," Mr McIntosh said. "This netted the Government an extra $45 million in revenue from the latest adjustment in August alone."
Funding for the eradication of 'black spots' needed to be increased in particular. Evaluations had shown a reduction in fatalities of up to 31 a year for every $100 million spent on these programs, but they were currently funded at an annual rate of less than $50 million.
Mr McIntosh called on both the Government and Opposition to commit a greater share of fuel tax revenue to road construction and maintenance. "The Coalition has identified 18 cents of the 43 cents per litre excise on diesel as a road user charge, but only about 5.0 cpl of fuel tax is allocated to roads," he said.
* Figures are for comparison purposes only as some of the Coalition's extra funds have been earmarked for specific projects.