Tolls for Every Australian Road, Federal Report Suggests
The Australian federal government has commissioned a review of competition policy, which contains recommendations on various areas, including pharmaceutics (opening up new pharmacies), trade (removing restrictions on work hours), energy (deregulating power prices) and media (adjusting what Australians pay for software, music and books to world prices).
However, one recommendation gained the attention of Australians the most—that is cost-reflective pricing for all roads.
What the Review Panel Say About Implementing Road Tolls
Ian Harper, University of Melbourne economics professor and review panel chairman, told News Corp Australia, “We now have the capacity to charge people for their use of the road system according to the time of day, the size of the vehicle and whereabouts they happen to be.
“The road system is the only example of an infrastructure asset, where the government owns the great bulk of the asset, funded through the tax system and given away for nothing.”
Basing his ideas on Singapore and London having tolls for their roads, he questioned the capacity of Australia to do the same thing. He also brought up the issue on people already paying for roads through fuel excise and the time-cost of congestion. “Sitting in queues of traffic is as costly … as paying,” he said.
According to Professor Harper, this recommendation isn’t about raising any more money because petrol taxes and other levies would offset usage charges. However, it would encourage motorists to change the route, adjust travel time or even opt for public transport.
Also giving his opinion was Andrew McKellar, executive director of Australian Automobile Association, stating “A road-user charging model … should be on the agenda over the medium-term.
“But you’ve got to ensure that motorists don’t end up paying more.”
Chairman of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Rod Sims also said, “Getting a more sensible road policy is good for consumers. We’ll have more and better roads.”
For Minister for Small Business Bruce Billson, who commissioned the review, said the recommendation “may raise eyebrows” though he didn’t comment particularly on the direct-charge proposal. He also encouraged the public to give feedback.
The recommendation is expected to greatly affect many individuals, especially movers, transporters and hauliers.
On the Other Review Recommendations
With regards to increasing competition in industries, such as taxis and pharmacies, and getting rid of remaining restrictions on parallel imports, consumer group Choice said these would axe tax on films, TV programmes, games, clothing, cosmetics and other products.
The review panel also argued that power price deregulation would increase competition.
With regards to trading hours, Professor Harper said businesses—not governments—should make the decision on when stores are open. Although, he suggested that they can impose a close on Christmas, Good Friday and Anzac Day morning.