The Toll Road Taskforce Is Out To Bleed Australian Motorists Dry!

What do Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel and Brisbane’s Clem 7 Tunnel have in common? Answer – they
are both colossal lemons in terms of the amount of commuters who have chosen to pay a quite exorbitant toll to use them.

They are just two examples of user pays infrastructure proving to be an unsustainable form of revenue raising outside the realm of the public purse.

The Clem7 went into receivership early this year after racking up $1.3 billion debt. What message do
you think this should be sending to the Gillard government, which is poised to act upon a ‘high level report’ compiled by a taskforce of ALP stooges who are advocating a massive splurge by the states in user end infrastructure, just another name for toll roads, and even more privatisation of public assets to fund a backlog of road projects which have sat on the backburner for far too many years.

Instead of highlighting the real reasons such as a lack of maintenance as to why so many roads in Australia are in disrepair and in sub-standard condition, which can mostly be attributed to the reckless waste of registration revenue by various state governments, this taskforce has only succeeded in contriving a ham-fisted proposal to implement another form of revenue raising which is neither feasible, given the relative commercial failure of existing flagship toll projects like the Clem 7 in Brisbane or equitable in terms of lumbering the greater percentage of the population with the prospect of paying tolls to use roads which by all rights should be funded by registration revenue alone.

The inflated fantasy traffic figures did not translate into actual numbers in the real world.

THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper front page story on June 13 titled ‘Tolls key to ending gridlock’, let the cat out of the bag as it were by pre-empting the questionable agenda of the Gillard government to commission the taskforce in the first place.

In view of the fact that cost of living pressures which are envisaged to be exacerbated significantly by the carbon tax after July 1 are bound to become even more intense in the coming years if Gillard and Swan are cocky and stupid enough to act upon the taskforce’s report.

You would have to assume that both the PM and the treasurer have an electoral death wish if they force the states to adopt the recommendations made in the report by stealth.

The whole concept of user pays infrastructure, and this includes paying a toll to use many state government controlled main roads (not just tunnels and bridges), is just another means of introducing a congestion tax, only it won’t be called that.

Former Treasury boss Ken Henry, in his wide ranging and elaborate tax review during the time when
Kevin Rudd was the prime minister, canvassed the prospect of introducing a congestion tax, presumably as a measure to cut exhaust emissions from motor vehicles.

I doubt very much that Henry was politically naive enough to not realise that the general population were always going to view a congestion tax as a ‘double dip’ in their hip pocket and just another excuse for parasitic politicians to raise supplementary revenue alongside registration revenue to prop up state budgets obliterated by over-expenditure in other areas besides road projects and improvements.

The Henry Tax Review in general, and not just the recommendations relating to the introduction of a congestion tax, were completely snubbed by Kevin Rudd and since its release the momentum for a congestion tax has died.

As far as the defunct proposal for a congestion tax is concerned the taskforce has essentially just refined the idea of a congestion tax given the concept a new name and given the concept far greater revenue raising potential.

And chances are the Gillard government will attempt to turn the taskforce’s recommendations into a policy platform. Chances are that if any of the Liberal/LNP premiers were to balk at any forced bi-partisan arrangement to enact state legislation to introduce tolls on most major freeways and arterial roads which obviously would be politically destructive for them and their party in the tight economic times which we are now living in then the Gillard government may very well threaten to hold back on vital GST revenue, federal hospital funding etc. to any state which fails to adopt this blatant revenue raising blueprint.

Tolls are not the key to ending the gridlock on our roads in Australia, the key is having state governments spend registration revenue wisely and prudently and making sure it doesn’t get spent on other things besides roads.

Strangely enough, the Business Council of Australia, to quote what is written in THE AUSTRALIAN, called for ‘greater private ownership and operation of infrastructure and warned there was inadequate use of user charging as a means to reduce public subsidies for infrastructure investment’.

Well I got news for the Business Council of Australia – the household budget money tree only grows so big and when people are financially squeezed they simply won’t pay a hefty toll to use any road.

Like the Clem 7 has proven, people will drive the back streets or go the long way to avoid being ripped off with a toll.

Tim Badrick, for the editors.