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The things we agree on
on some people depending upon where they live, rather than
falling on everyone, so that’s not fair either. We need to have a
debate about equity, as well as about how we fund roads, and
fund the system infrastructure.
BL: For a very long time, the favourite saying of senior
transport bureaucrats was: ‘The Minister told me road pricing is the
answer, then he asked me what the question was, and said that his
or her successor would do the implementation’. Paul, you’ve been
quite different, because you have come in and already publicly
committed to beginning a public process of inquiry.
From what you’ve said publicly, it seems to start with
establishing the problem, and looking at the options that might
be available. How worried are you about what happens when
that’s formally announced? How worried are you about it being
viewed as a great big new tax on every kilometre you drive...
those sorts of potential wedge-type issues?
PF: When Infrastructure Australia’s 15-year plan came
out, which recommended that there should be a study into this
issue, the Prime Minister and I said, when we agreed that we
would take up that recommendation, that it would be a 10 to 15-
year journey if we made a decision to go down this path. That’s
a very big if, because it would require both the Commonwealth
Government, and the state and territory governments to be
satisfied. You couldn’t do it unless there was that agreement,
and you’d need to be satisfied that it delivers a better system,
and addresses the fairness issues.
The fairness issues are really critical. There’s a lot of
community scepticism – you find that out if you do talkback
radio on this issue, as I have.
We will appoint an eminent Australian to carry out a study.
A key focus of the study is going to be describing the present
system, and getting into the equity implications of the present
system. Who bears the costs, and the different categories of
outer suburban, rural and regional road users? As you’d imagine,
the Coalition has a very keen interest in that issue. When we get
this study underway, there will be a very thorough examination of
how things work, and explaining to people how things work.
BL: What will Labor do when Paul announces his study?
AA: I’m not allowed to sledge Paul, but am I allowed to
sledge the audience?
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