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Media Release

14/02/2001

Batchelor Accused Of Lying About Road Funding

The Public Transport Users Association today condemned Transport Minister Peter Batchelor for peddling "lies" about the administration of the trust fund under the Australian Land Transport Development Act.

PTUA President Dr. Paul Mees, a lecturer in transport planning at Melbourne University, said:

"Our Association has been very critical of the Coalition government, on issues such as the GST on public transport, and we have very different views on the Scoiresby Freeway from Federal Liberal MPs Phil Baressi, Bruce Billson and Peter Nugent. But on this occasion we feel we have to respond to the ridiculous claims being made by Mr. Batchelor in his press release of 13th February."

"The trust fund under the Australian Land Transport Development Act is an historical relic that should have been abolished years ago. Transport Minister Anderson - and his predecessors from both parties - deserve criticism for failing to attend to this, but it does not follow that the Commonwealth has under-spent on roads by even one cent."

"A bipartisan Federal Parliamentary committee unanimously recommended in 1997 that the fund be abolished, because it no longer reflected the true basis on which Commonwealth road funding is allocated. All the Labor members of the Committee - including Victorians such as Ralph Willis and Lindsay Tanner - supported the recommendation and not a peep of protest was heard from anyone at the time. The non-abolition of the fund was nothing more than a book-keeping error and it is scandalously dishonest to suggest that the failure to abolish the fund means that there has been an underspending on roads by the Commonwealth."

"The road lobby has been telling lies for years about national road funding as part of a sleazy campaign to have roads funded ahead of more urgent social priorities like health, education and defence. It is unbfortunate that Peter Batchelor has joined them."

Dr. Mees said Peter Batchelor should instead concentrate on fulfilling his election promises to residents of Melbourne's outer east by commencing a promised study to upgrade public transport services.

In its transport policy for the 1999 State election, Labor promised:

Regional transport plans

Labor will develop a series of regional plans during its first term. These plans will be comprehensive…. They will be developed in an enhanced planning regime within the Department of Infrastructure and will include local transport companies, local councils, relevant community organisations and user representatives.

The first of these regional transport plans will be in the outer eastern suburbs. This will be the first regional transport plan to be developed and will act as a demonstration model for other outer suburban regions of Melbourne. The plan will improve quality of life now and into the future, through increased mobility, patronage and a reduced dependence on excessive car use… The recommendations from the plan will be specific and detailed to allow for a subsequent cost benefit analysis, Environmental [sic] Effects Statement and community consultation.
(Transport Policy, Rebuilding the Transport Network, pp. 10-11.)

Public transport in the outer eastern suburbs is of notoriously poor quality. For example, weekday services on the Belgrave and Lilydale lines (beyond Ringwood) only run half-hourly; meanwhile, there are no bus services at all on Sundays in the City of Greater Dandenong. By contrast, in well-off suburbs like Balwyn, trams run every 8 minutes off-peak and operate until midnight every day of the year.

Dr. Mees said that the lack of movement on public transport was particularly galling given the Government's backflip on the billion-dollar Scoresby Freeway.

"For a fraction of the cost of the Scoresby Freeway, the outer east could be provided with public transport just as good as Melbourne's inner suburbs. On the eve of the 1999 election Peter Batchelor promised a community-run process to do just this, and reduce excessive traffic levels in the outer east. Now, fifteen months down the track, not only has there been no movement on the promised action, but the plan does not feature in the list of proposed 2000/01 actions in this year's Department of Infrastructure Annual Report," said Dr. Mees. (See 1999-2000 DOI Annual Report, p. 42: 'Priorities for 2000-01'). Dr. Mees pointed out that the Department is, however, proposing to conduct a study of transport issues in the Fitzroy-Collingwood area, despite the promise that the outer east study would be the first.

"Instead of fulfilling his election promises, Mr Batchelor is talking absolute nonsense about the Scoresby Freeway, which was not part of its election platform. The reason for this inaction, of course, is that if the Government kept its promise, the resulting study would find that the Freeway is not needed."

Contacts:
PTUA Office 9650 7898

Extracts from Planning not Patching: An Inquiry into Federal road funding, by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and Microeconomic Reform, October 1997:

Recommendation 19:
The committee recommends removing the hypothecation provisions from the Australian Land Transport Development Act 1988. Further, the committee recommends that the Commonwealth source future road funding directly from consolidated revenue…

Recommendation 22:
The committee recommends that the Commonwealth revise the Australian Land Transport Development Act 1988:

  • to repeal hypothecation provisions… Further, the committee recommends that [the] amendments… be introduced into Parliament during 1998.

The committee considers that the more recent practice of retrospectively setting the fuel excise charge rate to match a predetermined funding level to be somewhat pointless… The main outcome of the more recent application of hypothecation arrangements is to perpetuate the perception witihin the community that a link exists between fuel excise and road funding… such a link is spurious… the money raised from the fuel excise is used to fund a range of government outlays…. (paras. 4.101-102).

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Last Modified: 16 February 2001