More bright ideas to fund our roads
I'M NOT a commentator but...
An interesting point was raised this week and it kinda sorta restores my hope that some of our official types are thinking beyond the current election cycle.
Even beyond the next one.
It has suddenly dawned on someone that as Australian motorists gradually wean themselves off petrol in favour of alternative fuels, government excise income will decline.
And therein lies the problem.
The problem of how government is to fund roads.
Income from fuel excises currently partly goes towards the maintenance, repair and construction of roads.
So obviously, some other system of revenue raising is going to have to be implemented at some stage.
We would expect the consultation process and engagement with experts in their field (and who hopefully know what they're talking about) to nut out a new system that is the fairest and best possible.
It is just frustrating that no sooner than the issue is raised this week that some politicians can't resist the temptation of turning the issue into an exercise in blame.
Because according to some, who obviously have some sort of axe to grind with those treasonous Australians who dare to power their cars with electricity rather than petrol, they are bludging off their fellow Australians by using roads and not contributing to excise.
This is logic not seen since that Queensland MP's attack on those awful people who have solar panels.
Let's be clear.
The blame can be laid squarely at the feet of politicians.
Not at the feet of those members of the public who either take rightful advantage of any government incentives or who possess the nouce so sadly lacking in some of our Members of Parliament to actually plan for the future.
In regard to how best for government to adequately fund the nation's future road commitments post-petrol, clearly the first idea floated hasn't come with a great deal of thought attached.
To replace fuel excise with a tax (or surcharge or whatever they want to call it) based on distance people drive would clearly affect regional Australians more than our metropolitan counterparts.
And the idea would not go down that well either with those in the mortgage belts fringing the big cities, where the lack of planning for public transport infrastructure leaves them with no other viable alternatives than to use their cars.
It doesn't require much of the old grey matter to realise that this "plan” would impact upon low income Australia to the greatest extent.
It's perhaps just the latest example of our politicians wanting to take the laziest option without considering the consequences.
Just like with how the National Broadband Network has been fiddled with by successive governments to the point where the whole scheme threatens to be obsolete long before it is even completed.
So, as the debate unfolds as to how this country is to fund its road programmes 10, 20, 50 years from now, it would do us all well to be reminded that there are probably no simple solutions.
Are our politicians collectively up to the task?
Can they put egos aside just long enough to come up with the best plan rather than one based on particular party biases?
When we discuss issues of infrastructure planning rationally (and not flavoured with the political propensity to use the issue for political rather than national capital) we must do so with the reality that Australia is the world's only nation-continent.
Solutions that work well in say Germany or Britain may not work here because of the scales involved and our relatively small overall population.
But rather than any of our politicians declaring that it is all too hard at the moment and can be left for another parliament to sort out, or to declare that it's our fault because we are turning away from petrol and so excise revenue will drop, or that we should accept second-best solutions, we should expect them to rise to our unique set of funding challenges.
They are being paid quite handsomely compared to most of us, so it's this sort of stuff we want them to be putting their energies into.
And that includes engaging with those outside of parliament for solutions to our infrastructure requirements going forward, rather than having their heads buried in their party policy bibles as if they provide the solutions to everything.