Every road should have tolls: report

Written By Unknown on Senin, 22 September 2014 | 20.01

Bad news ... the most controversial proposal in the report is "cost-reflective pricing for roads". Source: News Corp Australia

EVERY road in the nation would be tolled with costs tied to what, where and when you drive, under a recommendation from a powerful review commissioned by the Federal Government.

The review of competition policy also argues for opening up industries such as taxis and pharmacies, removing restrictions on trading hours and deregulating power prices, as well as closing the gap between what Australians and the rest of the world pay for books, music and software.

But of all the recommendations in the 313-page report, the most controversial is the proposal for "cost-reflective pricing for roads".

Review panel chairman, University of Melbourne economics professor Ian Harper, told News Corp Australia "we now have the capacity to charge people for their use of the road system according to time of day, size of the vehicle and whereabouts they happen to be".

Professor Harper said "the road system is the only example of an infrastructure asset, where the government owns the great bulk of the asset, funded through the tax system and given away for nothing".

Road charges ... the review of competition policy also argues for opening up the taxi industry. Source: News Corp Australia

If Singapore and London could direct-charge road users why couldn't Australia, he asked.

"People should reconsider they already pay for the roads" through fuel excise and the time-cost of congestion.

"Sitting in queues of traffic is as costly … as paying," Professor Harper said.

Australian Automobile Association executive director Andrew McKellar said "a road-user charging model … should be on the agenda over the medium-term".

"But you've got to ensure that motorists don't end up paying more."

Reformer ... Melbourne University Professor Ian Harper. Source: Supplied

The recommendation wasn't "about raising any more money", Professor Harper said, because petrol taxes and other levies would fall to offset usage charges. It would, however, encourage motorists to change route, the time they travel, or to hop on public transport, he said.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said: "Getting a more sensible road policy is good for consumers. We'll have more and better roads."

The minister responsible for competition matters, Bruce Billson, said some recommendations "may raise eyebrows", although he wouldn't comment specifically on the direct-charge proposal. Mr Billson, who commissioned the review, encouraged the public to give feedback.

Shopping ... the report also recommends axing the "Australia tax" on movies, games, TV series, clothing and cosmetics. Source: News Limited

Other review recommendations include increasing competition in industries such as taxis and pharmacies to give consumers more choice, as well as getting rid of "remaining restrictions on parallel imports" because it would lower prices.

Consumer group Choice said the recommendation would axe the "Australia tax" on movies, games, TV series, clothing and cosmetics.

Deregulating power prices — where it hadn't been done already — would increase competition, the review panel argued.

Of trading hours, Professor Harper said businesses — not governments — should decide when stores are open. The only times where they may be a "social" case for imposing a close were Christmas, Good Friday and the morning of Anzac Day.

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