Road spending drops as taxes fill coffers

Road expenditure slashed by almost $1.5 billion despite federal government receiving close to $10 billion in tax revenue

By Brad Gardner

Road expenditure was slashed by almost $1.5 billion in the 2006 financial year despite the federal government receiving close to $10 billion in tax revenue.

New figures released by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) show a sharp decline in spending based on current prices.

According to the figures, the federal government spent $4.2 billion in 2005-2006, but reduced its commitment to $2.7 billion the following year.

Spending on vital safety initiatives such as the Roads to Recovery and Black Spot programs were cut by $3 million each, while funding for the National Highways project fell from $763 million to $704 million.

During that period, the federal government collected $9.58 billion from fuel excise and $50 million from the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme (FIRS).

Although revenue from the excise fell more than $200 million based on the previous year, FIRS added an extra $7 million to government coffers, bringing total revenue to $9.63 billion in 2006-2007.

Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Anthony Albanese says the figures show a 35 percent cut in the federal roads budget between 2005 and 2006

"But this latest revelation about the Howard Government should come as little surprise. Its record was one of too little investment in the nation’s infrastructure," Albanese says.

Total road expenditure in the 2006 financial year was $12 billion, a more than $2 billion increase over the previous year, while total taxes and charges raised $16.4 billion in 2005-2006.

Albanese says the figure was only reached because state governments increased road expenditure.

According to BITRE, state expenditure jumped from $2.7 billion to $6.1 billion.

"New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria account for 78 percent of the total road-related expenditure in Australia," the BITRE report says.

"Including Australian government grant money, these three states spent $3.8 billion, $2.2 billion and $3.5 billion respectively in 2006-07."

The figures show local governments also increased expenditure from $2.1 billion to $2.5 billion.

The state and territory jurisdictions collected $5.8 billion in taxes in 2005-2006, with vehicle registration fees the greatest revenue source at $3.6 billion.

FIRS and the fuel excise made up 58 percent of total revenue, followed by vehicle registration fees at 22 percent and stamp duty at 12 percent.

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