Mr TUDGE (Aston) (7.22 pm)—The government believes that a tax is the answer to every problem. There is an issue with binge drinking, so they introduce an alcopops tax. There is a climate problem, so they propose a carbon tax. There is a mining boom, so apparently we need a mining tax. One of the great issues facing my electorate of Aston and many similar suburban areas in the big cities is congestion, and so what is the government considering? A road congestion tax. I stand on behalf of Aston residents in firmly opposing such a tax and I ask the government to immediately rule out applying one.
The proposal for a congestion tax came up as part of the government’s Henry review of taxation, which was made public by the government in early May this year. Recommendation 61 of the Henry review stated:
… governments should consider existing tolling technology across heavily congested parts of the road network … In general, congestion charges should apply to all registered vehicles using congested roads.
There were 138 recommendations in the Henry review. As we know, the government immediately agreed to implement some of them, but it also immediately ruled out 27 recommendations and said that it would not act on them. But the recommendation that I just read out, recommendation 61, was not ruled out.
It has now been almost a year that the government have had this report and have been able to consider that recommendation, and they have yet to rule it out. If they were going to do so they should have done so by now. In fact, the issue has now morphed into one of climate change. Just two weeks ago the Prime Minister’s Task Group on Energy Efficiency called for road congestion taxes on our busy roads as a measure to reduce carbon dioxide. The Prime Minister welcomed the report.
Residents in Aston are alarmed at the prospect of road congestion charges on our busy roads. Residents of Aston remember only too well the promises which were broken by the Labor governments on the Scoresby Freeway, a road which was supposed to be free of tolls and now has charges. Every day we drive along it, and every day we get a bill in the mail telling us how much we have to pay EastLink, we remember that broken promise. We do not need tolls in addition on Wellington Road, Stud Road, Ferntree Gully Road or Burwood Highway. We do not need extra tolls along the Monash Freeway.
We do have a serious congestion problem, and with the population growing so rapidly it will only get worse. The answer to congestion, though, is not a tax. The answer is to properly build the infrastructure that the community needs. That means a rail link to Rowville, which would take the equivalent of a lane of traffic off the Monash Freeway and link Australia’s largest university; it means finally completing the Dorset Road extension; it means duplicating the last remaining section of High Street Road; and of course it means getting rid of the dangerous and nearly always empty Stud Road bus lane.
Labor have made the roads more congested by introducing bus lanes on busy roads and increasing our population without adequately improving our road and public transport infrastructure, and now they want to charge us because the roads are congested. The Prime Minister should act immediately and rule out road congestion taxes applying to our busy roads.