The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has welcomed the Albanese government’s decision to withdraw the longstanding 80:20 funding split on major road projects.
But it also cautions that the new 50:50 approach between the feds and states should not be used as an excuse for taxing the road transport industry harder.
NatRoad said the new Infrastructure Policy Statement unveiled by Infrastructure Minister Catherine King today points at a more strategic approach to infrastructure funding, with fewer projects likely to be supported.
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark says the association supports the government’s aim of taking the politics out of road funding decisions, and reining in cost blowouts.
“The minister has correctly identified that cost blow outs are a significant problem,” Clark said.
“With an estimated $33 billion in known cost blow outs that must be paid in higher taxes or result in less support for other vital priorities, such as road maintenance.
“We note the government’s assurance it is not cutting funding from the pipeline but seeking to share accountability and get better bang for its buck.”
Australia can reap a national dividend from strategic investment in infrastructure, he added.
“We do question what is meant by ‘seeking to unlock extra money’ for future investment and caution it can’t result in new taxes on road transport,” Clark said.
“Governments need more effective infrastructure spending and reforms such as implementing service level standards, and not just end up throwing more money at a broken system.
“Higher infrastructure spending and cost blow outs lead to a higher road user charge, and trucking companies are already under extreme cost pressures.
“We need to have a conversation about a new road user charge and how it will work in the context of decarbonisation.”
Meanwhile, Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the Albanese government’s deviation from the previous funding agreement – which had supported 460 upgrades since 2015 – would “unfairly disadvantage regional Queenslanders”.
“Every Queenslander knows the Bruce Highway is the backbone of this state,” he said.
“By walking away from the existing 80:20 funding arrangement for regional transport infrastructure, the federal government is putting Queensland lives and livelihoods at risk.
“Walking away from the Bruce puts at risk a pipeline of needed and planned upgrades along the highway, in construction, design or planning.”
King’s office told Big Rigs Labor’s long-awaited infrastructure review will be released in the next few days.
It was expected to include cuts and delays to a number of projects.