Tanner headlines conference on user pays infrastructure

Former finance minister fronts conference on how to pay for infrastructure

March 19, 2012

Former finance minister Lindsay Tanner will headline a conference this week aimed at working out how best to fund Australia’s infrastructure needs.

Organised by the government body Infrastructure Australia, the User Pays conference will be held on March 22 in Melbourne.

Infrastructure Australia boss Michael Deegan says the conference will focus on the key question of whether the country is prepared to pay for its infrastructure.

"Australians are typically wary of increasing government debt and baulk at raising taxes to pay for better infrastructure and services, but still don’t like tolls or utility charges. Yet we demand infrastructure that works," Deegan says.

"We are concerned about congestion, we are concerned about the health and security of our water supplies, we are concerned about the prospect of electricity ‘brown outs’ and we recognise the need to modernise our telecommunications."

Tanner will deliver the keynote address on how to pay for infrastructure, while the conference will include speakers from the federal Treasury, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"It is time Australia entered a mature debate about how we fund the infrastructure we need to grow into the future," Deegan says.

"It is time for Australia to address the profound disconnect between what we expect of our infrastructure networks and how we expect to get it."

Infrastructure Australia’s June 2011 report to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) noted community concerns about infrastructure but also opposition to paying more to improve it.

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