According to Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) our government is planning to implement a per kilometre road usage charge. The fees will be calculated using a number of factors such as the weight of the vehicle, where it’s being driven and the time of day the vehicle is on the road, and could be as high as 20c per kilometre in Sydney.
IPA’s Chief Executive, Brendan Lyon says that the proposed universal road-user charging model will address the inequalities in the present funding system in Australia.
Every motorist is, technically, already taxed on each kilometre we drive: for example, we have toll roads, and we pay tax in the price of fuel. While this used to work, vehicle fuel economy is getting better and better, yet vehicles still create the same amount of wear on the roads that they always have. Add into the equation fully electric cars and hybrid cars, and it’s plain that the government will find it difficult to raise the equivalent tax for the kilometres traveled under electric power.
A price per kilometre charge, on the face of it, would seem fairer if it is tied to weight (implying that the weight of a vehicle directly contributes to the amount of wear and tear it causes on the road), however it’s up to the public to decide because making such a bold change could be political suicide. The Transport Reform Network has said that Australians will accept road-usage charges if they appear to be fair, i.e. they are reinvested in improving the roads and public transport. Its chairman, Dennis Cliche pulled out a cliche by saying “We can no longer afford to sit on our hands.”
Factors to consider in any proposal will be:
- the ability for users to fraudulently report kilometres traveled, for example by ‘clocking’ their vehicles
- whether increases like this could have an unfairly detrimental effect on services such as emergency services
- whether unintended steep increases in the cost of motoring could reduce other utility service. For example, private security guards patrol certain commercial and residential areas in vehicles and this reduces crime. If this becomes unduly expensive, property owners may cut back, and this may increase crime, which will increase government costs in other areas such as policing (which, in itself, needs to use the roads)
- if a sharp increase in travel costs reduces vehicle usage so much that even less tax is collected overall.
Few other details have been released, but the paper will be presented in Canberra on Tuesday.