All sides disown hwy toll idea
IN one of the great time-wasters of pre-election politics, State Government and Opposition MPs blamed each other yesterday for the almost non-existent suggestion of tolls on the Bruce Hwy.
The idea, put forward by the federal think tank Infrastructure Australia has no political support on either side and, despite State Government allegations yesterday, was apparently never suggested by the Opposition.
Yesterday, both sides of Queensland politics ruled out the idea – and for very good reason.
They cannot do it anyway.
Reporting government claims the LNP would impose tolls that would add hundreds of dollars to the cost of travelling from Gympie to centres like Rockhampton and Brisbane, one media outlet made the important point that no state government has the power to impose tolls on a federal highway.
More significantly for motorists, neither side in federal politics wanted anything to do with the idea yesterday, except to try to blame each other for it.
Infrastructure Australia boss Michael Deegan suggested Australians needed to start thinking clearly about expensive infrastructure issues which could “threaten our prosperity and future”.
Mr Deegan said tolls on the Hume, Pacific and Bruce highways could generate vital funds.
“We recognise that’s controversial, but we also recognise that given the funding challenges across all governments, we need to consider other forms of payment,” Mr Deegan said.
“We are an advisory body, it’s up to governments to decide,” he said.
The Infrastructure Australia report noted Australia needed infrastructure and needed to think seriously about how to pay for it.
“As a country and a community, we are reluctant to increase government debt, (we) baulk at raising taxes to pay for better infrastructure and services, (we) are uncomfortable with the ‘user pays’ concept (for example, tolls) and are against selling poorly performing infrastructure assets that could be better managed by the private sector.
“Yet we are concerned about congestion. There is a profound disconnect here,” he said.
Yesterday’s flurry of finger-pointing included Main Roads Minister Craig Wallace, Shadow Infrastructure Minister Jeff Seeney, Gympie MP David Gibson, federal Treasurer Wayne Swan and Gympie’s Wide Bay federal MP Warren Truss.
The debate has been under way since Friday when Mr Wallace claimed the LNP would charge motorists $457 to drive to Mackay and $380 to go to Brisbane.
Mr Seeney said he had made a media statement that private interests might be interested in investing in highway infrastructure, but that he was opposed to the idea.
Mr Swan said the tolls were a ridiculous idea,” a description supported by both sides of politics at federal and state level yesterday, although that was about all they agreed on.
Mr Gibson said he feared Mr Wallace’s statements showed he had done some costings on tolls and may support them.