2UE, Tim Webster



14 March 2016

Topic: Road pricing, traffic congestion

Tim Webster: Well there you go Pete, one of my listeners just said you've got to get the Minister on. Well, here is the Minister Paul Fletcher. G'day thanks for your time.

Paul Fletcher: G'day Tim.

Tim Webster: Yeah I know you're busy. Now, as my caller said and I know, this is not a new idea, user pays on the road. I mean, have we got a new thought on it though?

Paul Fletcher: Well today we already pay for the use of roads, so there's about $15 billion a year collected in fuel excise—40 cents a litre when you fill up at the pump, about $5 billion a year around the country on state motor vehicle registration charges. The question though is whether if we had a direct pricing system, whether that would be fairer, whether that would mean less congestion of roads, whether that would give us better roads. So that's the question. Infrastructure Australia put out their 15 year infrastructure plan about three weeks ago, and one of their recommendations was that the Government should commission a more detailed report on how a road pricing system might work to see if it delivered those benefits. Now, the Prime Minister and I at the time said if we were to go down this path there's probably a 10 to 15 year timeframe. But the first question to consider, that the Government is considering at the moment, is should we do as Infrastructure Australia has recommended, which is to commission a more detailed study? How would such a system work? A lot of questions we'd need to be satisfied on. Would it be fairer than the present system? Would it reduce congestion? Would it give us better roads?

Tim Webster: Yeah, and also- I mean, and I talk about this incessantly on this radio program, anything we can do, any suggestion we can put forward to reduce congestion has to be a good thing.

Paul Fletcher: Look, one of the arguments that gets put in favour of a road pricing system is the impact on congestion. One of the other arguments that gets put is, well, you could do as is done in some other countries, where some of the money that gets spent on road pricing in the places where they have it then goes to fund additional public transport. So these are all possibilities, but they're all things that need to be looked at more carefully. We're certainly not at the stage of making any decisions on it.

Tim Webster: No sure, yeah. One of my listeners just said back in the old days—and he's a truckie, been a truckie for a long time—there was one. You filled out a log book so if you say you did 10,000 kilometres then you paid a percentage in tax for the amount of kilometres that you did. That was back in the old DMR days, and that was replaced by a weight tax. So look, there would have to trade-offs wouldn't there, on your rego and everything else?

Paul Fletcher: And of course, your listener's comment brings up another good point, which is that if you were talking about doing this 10 years ago people would've said well how do you actually work out the number of kilometres that you do in a vehicle?

Tim Webster: Correct.

Paul Fletcher: You know, will we have to go into an inspection station and have somebody look at the odometer and all that kind of stuff. Now of course with technology today it's much easier; it's entirely feasible to have a device in a vehicle which can record the distance that you travel.

Tim Webster: Point to point, yeah.

Paul Fletcher: Now, in the US state of Oregon they've got a system underway that does this, and you have a choice as a consumer as to which device you get for example. Now, that's one way you could do it. But the point really is the technology means that one barrier is no longer there. It's not going to be time consuming and messy and fiddly to work out the distances you've travelled, but there are a lot of other things we'd need to study.

Tim Webster: All right, so a thought but quite a bit of consideration before anything happens, yeah?

Paul Fletcher: That's right, and if we were to do it what we'd need to be satisfied of is that it's fairer, that it reduces congestion and it gives us better roads.

Tim Webster: Can't ask for more than that. Thanks for your time, good on you. Thank you.

Paul Fletcher: Okay, thank you.