Decline in road funding despite record government revenue

By: Jason Whittaker

Road infrastructure funding fell over a four-year period to 2004-05 despite jurisdictions collecting record amounts of vehicle-related revenue, according to

Road infrastructure funding fell over a four-year period to 2004-05 despite jurisdictions collecting record amounts of vehicle-related revenue, according to statistics from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

The Public road-related expenditure and revenue in Australia (2008 update) shows a drop in road funding from $9.68 billion in 2000-01 to just over $9 billion in 2004-05. State governments alone slashed more than $500 million between 2000-01 and 2004-05.

The figures show road expenditure fell by 4.1 percent in real terms. According to BITRE, greater construction costs were a contributing factor in the fall.

NSW, Queensland and Victoria spent the most of all states and territories, investing $3.3 billion, $2.2 billion and $1.4 billion respectively in 2004-05.

However, Queensland Government funding for roads has actually fallen from 2000-01 levels, with a cut in 2003-04 from $2.5 billion to $2.2 billion the following year.

Amid a fall in funding, state and territory governments collected $9.8 billion from the fuel excise—up from $6 billion in 1993-94—and $43 million from the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme, an increase of $23 million since 1993-94.

Governments also collected record amounts in registration fees, from $1.9 billion in 1993-94 to $3.4 billion in 2004-05. Registration revenue will increase dramatically in the coming years following the implementation of higher heavy vehicle registration charges, which will take effect on July 1.

In total, states and territories collected $16.3 billion in revenue from vehicle taxes and charges in 2004-05, an increase of more than $5 billion since 1993-94.

BITRE has also released the Australian Transport Statistics June 2008 pocketbook which highlights the role the road transport industry continues to play in driving the economy.

Of the $46 billion contributed by the transport and storage industry to GDP in 2006-07, road transport was responsible for almost $17 billion.

The industry continues to employ more people than other transport sectors, taking on 232,000 employees in the last financial year. Rail employed 40,000 with air and space accounting for 48,000.

The transport industry accounted for 4.7 percent of total employment—almost 500,000 jobs—from August 2006 to August 2007.

In line with projections, the road freight task continues to climb, with trucks responsible for 1.8 million tonnes of domestic freight. In contrast, rail carried more than 1 million tonnes less, responsible for 641,220 tonnes in 2005-06.

It was seen, however, as a more attractive option over long distances, with BITRE finding rail freight travelled an average of 295km as opposed to road freight which travelled 91km on average.

Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese says the figures show how important the transport industry is in underpinning the economy.

"The transport sector is indeed the economic life-blood of our nation, supporting our industries from agriculture to manufacturing and mining," Albanese says.

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