Well put extra revenue back into roads: governments

By: Jason Whittaker

Governments are moving to allay industry fears any extra revenue gained from increasing registration and fuel charges will disappear into

Governments are moving to allay industry fears any extra revenue gained from increasing registration and fuel charges will disappear into consolidated revenue.

The decision by the Australian Transport Council (ATC) on last month to pass higher registration charges and to index the fuel excise left the industry questioning where the extra money would go.

Steve Shearer of the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) expressed scepticism over claims higher charges would lead to greater investment.

The industry stalwart says there is no way for the industry to prove how much money is taken from the increases and how much is actually spent on transport projects.

But federal Minister for Transport Anthony Albanese used his announcement of the $70 million Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Plan to assure the industry he did not vote to increase charges merely to prop up government coffers.

According to Albanese, "this much greater investment in road safety and transport productivity" is only possible because the ATC increased road user charges.

The plan will fund tachograph trials, the construction of rest stops and parking areas and freight route upgrades.

Furthermore, the states have agreed to investigate the introduction of mandatory, periodic health checks for truck drivers as well as conduct further work on new national standards for random drug and alcohol testing.

There are positive indications for extra funding in Queensland, with Queensland Transport Association boss Peter Garske confident of securing greater investment in the way of road freight initiatives.

"Our negotiations with the Queensland Minister [for Transport] John Mickel have indicated that he is prepared to discuss the allocation of increased revenue in Queensland – approximately $23 million per annum – to productivity and efficiency measures," he says.

Northern Territory Minister for Transport Delia Lawrie says operators there can expect more in the way of road funding.

"The Northern Territory Government currently has a record roads spend of $180 million and is committed to increasing its investment in road infrastructure to support the transport industry," she says.

The South Australian Government is also acting to convince the industry that any extra revenue squeezed from the industry will be put straight back into transport projects.

"All heavy vehicle registration revenue in South Australia is deposited into the Highways Fund and by legislation is required to be used for road related purposes," according to a spokesman for Minister for Transport Patrick Conlon. "This includes both infrastructure and non-infrastructure purposes."

While the Western Australian Government is "obliged to put all that money [registration charges] into road funding", the Government will also distribute 27 percent of revenue to councils, Minister for Transport Allanah MacTiernan says.

Victoria and New South Wales are already committing to building more rest areas, a move that has gained significant support from the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).

VTA Chief Executive Phil Lovel says he is impressed by the commitment of the NSW and Victorian governments in addressing rest stop areas. He says both governments are taking the lead on the issue.

"The NSW Government is really committed to looking at rest areas; the Victorian Government is the same," he says.

The Australian Capital Territory Government, on the other hand, has not allocated any extra funding from increased charges because, as a spokeswoman says, the Government is simply recouping expenditure owed to it by the trucking industry.

"As the heavy vehicle charges determination is premised on the recovery of expenditure, there is not considered to be any extra revenue to be able to be reinvested into the transport industry," the spokeswoman says.

In fact, the ACT Government estimates it will still be under-recovering once the new charges take effect. According to the spokeswoman, transport expenditure will exceed the revenue gained from the increased charges by $2.8 million.

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