Prime Minister Tony Abbott has swiftly hosed down any possibility of a more nuanced user-pays approach to funding roads infrastructure based on in-car telematics.
The Productivity Commission handed down draft recommendations for the future of funding of Australian infrastructure this morning, including advice that the Commonwealth should fund state government trials of GPS-based vehicle tracking as a foundation for distance and location based taxation.
But Abbott immediately described the adoption of a user-pays policy as improbably under his government.
“I think it's not one that's ever likely to be accepted by any government,” he said in an interview with Adelaide radio this morning.
At present, road building and maintenance is primarily funded through a combination of income tax, car registration fees and fuel excise. The Commission has endorsed an alternative approach that is more aligned to the way Australians pay for other forms of national infrastructure, such as telecommunications, electricity and water.
In the US, the Oregon state government introduced a telematics-based scheme of tracking road use as an alternative to a fuel tax, which the Commission raised as a model for Australian governments could follow.
The Commission believes the “application of charging mechanisms created by rapidly changing communications technology appears promising” as the growing ubiquity of in-built GPS systems in new cars made the telemetrics-based approach more feasible than the widespread roll-out of expensive tolling systems.