Regional drivers could contribute less toward road construction and maintenance if congestion charges were applied to city road users, according to a suggestion of the Harper Competition Policy Review.

The recently released review of Australian competition policy is critical of the current road funding system, claiming it hasn’t changed in 20 years and regional drivers pay more than their fair share.

Review panel member, Su McClusky of the Regional Australia Institute, said if governments charged for road use, regional drivers would benefit.

“You start to pull off and reduce fuel excise, the cost of registration,” Ms McClusky said.

“Also importantly for rural and regional areas they won’t be imposed on by things such as congestion charges, which would be apply in cities.

“So there’s every likelihood that the overall costs could reduce over time for people in those areas.”

The review recommended government intervention to ensure costs do not rise for regional drivers.

“To avoid imposing higher overall charges on road users, governments should take a cross-jurisdictional approach to road pricing,” the report stated.

The report was critical of the current road funding system.

“Reform of road pricing and provision should be a priority,” the Harper review stated.

“Road reform is the least advanced of all transport modes and holds the greatest prospect for efficiency improvements, which are important for Australian productivity and community amenity.”

It criticised the lack of transparency in Government budgets for road funding, and suggested separating fuel excises and taxes into a direct road fund.

“Fuel taxes and other indirect taxes levied on road users should be hypothecated to these road funds.

“Over time, as direct road charges increase, these taxes should be reduced.

“Australian Government grants to the States and Territories should also be adjusted in line with the fall in Australian Government revenue from fuel excise.”

Improving regional aged care

Ms McClusky said the provision of human services in regional areas was a sector where great gains could be made.

“The idea of the reforms is to increase consumer choice through a diversity of providers and service innovation,” Ms McClusky said.

“Enabling the user to choose where and what service they want.

“In regional areas, you have to make sure you have equity of access and minimum standards.”

As head of the Regional Australia Institute, Su McClusky recognises that one model doesn’t suit all, so suggested different sorts of aged or disability care should be trialled in regional areas.

Speaking about the wide ranging 500 page report, which had significant input from regional experts, Ms McClusky said it was a privilege to be involved.

“Regional Australia often gets overlooked in issues that get played out in the national arena.

“A third of the population lives in regional Australia, and if you invest in the regions you invest in the whole of Australia.”

Extracted in full from ABC.