than $20 billion a year of national road funding is being spent in a “hideously
inefficient” manner, according to a leaked assessment by Australia’s independent
Infrastructure Australia report, obtained by Fairfax Media, has also delivered a
scathing critique of “monopoly” state-run road entities such as VicRoads,
claiming a culture of resisting reform has led to a situation in which
political leaders are held “captive” to demands for more funding.
unhealthy focus of road agencies appears set on ‘getting, controlling and
spending’ more taxpayer money, rather than questioning efficiency or value to
the motorist and governments,” the report says.
report, "Spend more, waste more, Australia's roads in 2014: moving beyond
gambling," was sent to industry experts on Tuesday for comment. But, just hours
after it was circulated, Infrastructure Australia’s acting coordinator John
Fitzgerald ordered its withdrawal.
Fitzgerald said the report had been emailed “in error” by a consultant. He said
it had been withdrawn because he had not read it, nor had it been properly
considered by the Infrastructure Australia council or the federal
I’m still here, I value good processes to ensure that publications from
Infrastructure Australia are of the highest quality,” Mr Fitzgerald said.
report, which claimed Australia has a “gambler’s addiction to roads”, said
national road spending is now outstripping revenue raised through road-related
taxes and charges, warning “Australia’s thirst for roads” would come at the
expense of other services as the gap continues to widen. In the four years to
June 30, 2012, road spending outstripped road revenue by $4.5 billion.
that current governments at all levels display an appetite for much greater road
spending in future, this trend should give rise to urgent questions of
efficiency about how road funds are raised and allocated,” the report said.
suggested there was little consideration of whether Australia’s demands for new
roads should be satisfied, and argued that rail funding had missed out as a
current Australian system assumes that roads are an answer to most transport
problems and seeks more and more funding to that end, with little consideration
of alternatives that most other developed parts of the world enjoy, such as
significant heavy intercontinental rail networks and dominant heavy mass transit
suggested a better approach would be to increase private-sector investment in
efforts should bypass road agencies, which in most observed cases, will only
suffocate or over-complicate such opportunities if given carriage of them.”
report said since Infrastructure Australia was set up in 2008 to provide
independent advice on infrastructure projects, it has received more than 1000
proposals, mostly for road projects.
were almost universally poor, in that they lacked any cost-benefit rigour
whatsoever,” it said. “The real problem is that road agencies and other road
project proponents in industry and the community spend next to no effort
examining what problems their projects and plans are trying to solve, other than
the perceived problem that they do not have enough road funding.”
report raises interesting questions for the federal government, which has a
road-focused approach to infrastructure funding. During the 2013 election
campaign, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared that the Commonwealth should
“stick to its knitting” and focus on funding roads rather than urban rail.
Napthine government too has been criticised for failing to submit a robust
benefit-cost analysis for its East-West Link to Infrastructure Australia. But,
with about $27 billion of transport projects announced in the May budget, it has
also been keen to involve the private sector.
report was also critical of the federal government’s efforts to predict
increases in road traffic, claiming urban congestion had consistently been
overstated as a result.
Melbourne, the government had predicted a 27 per cent jump in road vehicle
kilometres travelled in the decade to 2011-12. In reality, vehicle use had
increased by just 15 per cent, it said.