Infrastructure Audit puts onus on governments to get serious says industry

ALC, QTA and engineers reinforce ATA’s call for politicians to act on findings and get their houses in order


Freight transport infrastructure investment must be aimed where freight concentrates, the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) states in welcoming Infrastructure Australia’s National Infrastructure Audit report.

The report adds to a body of recent work that solidifies the priorities in the choice of projects and the way they are funded and it is imperative governments focus on realising them, it points out.

"The enormous costs associated with traffic congestion, particularly in our cities which have been identified by Infrastructure Australia, should serve as a wake-up call to all levels of government that this issue requires serious consideration and action," ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff says.

"Reports such as this, the Productivity Commission’s report into Public Infrastructure and the Harper Competition Policy Review help to inform this debate and should be seriously considered by all levels of government."  

"The report’s conclusion – that major reforms are needed to improve the way we finance and operate infrastructure to support productivity gains – reflect a growing consensus that the current system of heavy vehicle charging and investment needs considered debate and reform," Kilgariff adds.

"ALC has been an active participant in this debate, as we acknowledge the potential benefits that could flow from the way we price and invest in logistics infrastructure, particularly when the dollars follow the freight.

"Funds collected need to be invested in the infrastructure used by the vehicle (that is, the revenue ‘follows the freight’) and not diverted into consolidated revenue for use for other purposes, and that any payments made to a road owner in the form of a CSO payment are transparent.

The Infrastructure Australia report also highlights the need to ensure the right infrastructure projects are selected for funding.

"ALC strongly believes that all major projects should undergo rigorous cost-benefit analysis before receiving public funding to test whether they are in Australia’s long-term economic interest, and that these analyses are made publicly available," Kilgariff says.

"Cost benefit analyses should be published for all projects being considered for Commonwealth investment and ALC looks forward to Infrastructure Australia undertaking this work.

The Queensland Transport Association believes the states and territories need to put in place supply side reforms before this can be done.

It says these reforms should include:

  • asset registers so they know what roads and bridges they own and their condition;
  • four year forward road expenditure plans, particularly for road maintenance, which is chronically underfunded in Australia
  • heavy vehicle road asset service standards, so the infrastructure that industry buys is fit for purpose.

"Governments must also resolve the problems with the existing charging system before attempting to roll out a new one," the QTA states, echoing the stance of the Australian Trucking Association (ATA).

"The existing system for charging heavy vehicles for their road use – a combination of fuel and registration charges – will overcharge the truck and bus industries by $117 million in 2015-16.

"The current charging model underestimates the number of heavy vehicles in Australia. In considering direct pricing, governments must finally ensure that the exercise will improve decision making, without adding to the industry’s compliance costs."

Engineers Australia also gave its backing to the report’s findings, especially regarding congestion.

"Engineers Australia has long spoken about how pockets of congestion around Australia as having a negative effect on the country," CEO Stephen Durkin says.

 "Infrastructure Australia’s audit has now quantified this congestion, reinforcing it as a significant national issue.

"If our cities continue down the same road without transport infrastructure improvements, car travel times will increase by 20 per cent in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. Some trips will take twice as long to complete.

"Increasing travel times this significantly will have negative consequences on Australia’s industry, affecting productivity in a wide range of areas."

The peak body calls for a strong, consultative 15 year national infrastructure plan based on the research in this audit. 

"Infrastructure Australia has identified a problem, now it’s up to government to put in place solutions," it says.

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