Home' Future Building: The Australian Infrastructure Review : Volume 8 Number 1 Contents futurebuilding 93
The things we agree on
are, and having formal consultation mechanisms so that those
issues can be surfaced and worked through.
BL: Just before we move on from the airport, is there
anything that you would want from Labor, in Opposition, to help
with? You’ve got a difficult job to get a very complex project up
PF: Other than staying in Opposition?
AA: That’s going well for you.
BL: Alright, you’re going to have to say something nice now.
PF: It wasn’t about him.
BL: Come on, say something nice, just be friends.
AA: He’s not the problem. He’s an Australian citizen.
PF: The engagement’s been pretty good so far.
BL: Anthony, is there anything that you need from the
Government, from Paul, to make it easier for you to control?
AA: Paul has been constructive in terms of appointments
to things. It’s good that there are some Labor people on the
consultative body. Peter Shergold was a very good appointment
as the chair of that, so with respect, that needs to continue
in terms of the board. Some of our people in government
complained that under Rudd and Gillard, we appointed more
conservatives than Labor-aligned people. I don’t think that’s
quite fair, but we were bipartisan in our appointments.
I appointed people like Bruce Baird and Mark Birrell, both
former Liberal MPs, and a range of others. There’s not a very
big list from this Government, and they need to understand that
Western Sydney is Labor heartland, so there needs to be some
people who identify with our side, to be frank about it. But Paul
has been very constructive by sitting down and letting us know
in advance when things are happening.
BL: That’s good. Well, we might move from the airport onto
road pricing, which was a fairly big theme of discussion this
When we originally put these questions together five or six
weeks ago, we were going to note that an area of agreement
between you both was the wonder of Italian culture, that your
wife, Paul, and your father, Albo, were both of Italian stock. Of
course, Section 44 means that we no longer admit or even
acknowledge cultural ties.
AA: There’s one time in my life to be glad of my immaculate
conception. I mean, having no father on my birth certificate.
BL: If we did acknowledge those cultural ties, however,
one thing we could observe is that traffic congestion in Rome
is now roughly similar to what it is in Melbourne and Sydney
we’ve got problems getting funding into the transport projects
that we need. We’ve got trouble maintaining what we’ve got. I
guess the first question on road pricing is to ask you again, what
does it mean to you? Road pricing can be anything to anyone,
depending on the time.
PF: The point I’d start with is that people pay to use the
roads today. People are paying 41 cents per litre in fuel excise
to use the roads today. Of course, if you’re driving a 10-year-
old Holden Commodore, that translates to about 4.5 cents per
kilometre. If you’re driving a Prius, that’s about 1.5 cents per
kilometre. If you’re driving a Tesla, that’s 0 cents per kilometre.
Apart from the relatively small number of people who drive a
Tesla, you are paying to use the road today.
One way that road pricing works is the way we have it
today, but there are obviously other approaches. For example,
I was recently in Oregon and California, where both states
have trials underway. They both have a per-mile gas tax, and
they’re looking at whether it makes sense to move to a different
system. One of the reasons they’re looking at it is that vehicles
are getting more fuel efficient, and electric vehicles are starting
to increase as a proportion of the fleet, so the revenue stream
that has been a very significant contributor towards the capital
and operational cost of roads is declining. We spend $23 billion
a year on roads around this country, yet one of the key revenue
streams that we’ve relied on is under pressure. That’s one of
the reasons different countries around the world are looking at
different models, and there are a range of different possibilities.
BL: What would you say when people are talking to you
about road pricing? What are you thinking in your head: it’s not
a cordon charge – it’s something wider?
AA: Beyond what Paul said, people pay through their direct
taxes to build roads and maintain them. People pay their rates to
local government to build roads. The big issue is if you were starting
again, the ideal theoretical model is a distance charge. There are a
couple of issues though, that you’ve got to overlay over the top of
the theory. From my perspective, it’s very much equity.
BL: Fairness equity.
AA: Yes. Those people who have to drive the furthest in
Western Sydney, for example, are those people who have
less access to public transport. By and large, that’s the case.
They need a car to get around. People who live in Western
Sydney don’t just go to the CBD. We haven’t done north–south
corridors. How do you get from Campbelltown to St Marys by
public transport? We were going to do a Parramatta to Epping
rail line when we were in government, and part of that was
about getting people from Western Sydney up to the high-value
jobs in Macquarie Park and around that area. At the moment, to
travel by rail, you have to go into the CBD and then out again;
Before you talk about charges, you’ve got to have modal
transfer options, as well. This city will not function as a city of
eight million people if it’s just about the private motor car. It’s got
to be about both roads and public transport. The issue of toll
roads will increasingly be an issue because tolls are imposed
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