Federal budget bypasses sustainable transport
Public transport advocates have criticised the Federal Budget for again failing to fund sustainable transport initiatives. Victoria’s Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) said the Federal Government continued to ignore the problem, against the advice of such bodies as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), whose report last week on mitigating climate change highlighted the urgent need to invest in public transport.
“The concern revealed in the IPCC report about growth in transport emissions shows how grossly unsustainable our current transport policies are,” said Mr Bowen. “And the Federal Government is continuing to lead us down this dangerous path, by funding billions of dollars in road projects, but not putting a cent into urban public transport.”
Mr Bowen said that while many national governments around the world funded public transport, Australia’s did not. Although some Auslink 2 money was earmarked for intercapital rail upgrades, none was expected to be spent on suburban rail. “Despite concerns about climate change, despite climbing petrol prices and traffic congestion, all the Federal transport money in our cities is going into yet more roads. Meanwhile we are crying out for more public transport, and better cycling and pedestrian facilities, to curb our car dependence.”
Also disappointing was the lack of changes to the Commonwealth Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) laws, which currently encourage company car users to drive further each year to minimise their tax bill. “It’s time for the federal government to axe this perverse policy which adds to national emissions, energy use and congestion. The government should instead be offering tax breaks for public transport users to get commuters out of their cars.”
Mr Bowen called on parties contesting this year’s federal election to get serious about supporting public transport, noting that Melbourne’s Dandenong to Cranbourne rail line was funded under the Federal Better Cities programme in 1996. “The support for public transport shown at this year’s ALP National Conference is clearly a step in the right direction. We need a commitment from all parties to improve public transport so that it becomes a real option for people currently starved of sustainable transport choices.
“If we are serious about combating dangerous climate change and preparing Australia for peak oil, solar panels are only one small piece of the puzzle. This budget needed to invest heavily in rail and other public transport infrastructure, electrification projects, and more commercialisation and rollout of renewable energy. Unfortunately, it falls short – if anything, it entrenches car dependency with the billions it pours into roads,” concluded Mr Bowen.
 http://www.dotars.gov.au/department/statements/2007_2008/media/003trs.aspx shows Auslink spending in Victoria alone for 2007-08 to be $262 million on roads, and $50 million on rail freight links. There is no funding in 2007-08, or in subsequent years, for passenger rail or other public transport.
 The FBT Statutory Formula provides tax concessions for higher annual kms travelled, with a tax rate that varies from 26% for less than 15,000km, down to 7% for more than 40,000km. These concessions cost the Commonwealth over $1 billion per annum. (Source: Tax Expenditures Statement 2006, Australian Treasury, p.132)