he federal government is looking at changing the way Australians pay for roads to help provide better transport.
In a statement to parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the coalition was investing a record $50 billion in big-ticket projects to the end of the decade.
“But money alone is not the answer,” he said.
“We need to get better at planning and building the infrastructure and to do that, we have to work together.”
Among its commitments, the government will commission a study into the potential benefits and impacts of charging road users with light vehicles instead of a fuel tax.
Reforming the way roads are paid for will help provide better transport and a more efficient and sustainable system of funding, the prime minister said.
“Governments and the community need to be comfortable that any new system of road pricing is fair, and that the benefits outweigh the costs before any change is made over the longer term.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said charging Australians more to drive their car without investing in public transport as an alternative inevitably means punishing those who can least afford it.
“Any proposal to change the funding arrangements for Australian roads should be based on equity, and investing in public transport in the outer suburbs,” Mr Shorten told parliament.
Mr Turnbull said his government was supporting 69 of the 78 recommendations made in Infrastructure Australia’s 15-year plan.
It has already committed money towards 14 of the report’s 15 priority projects, including Inland Rail, WestConnex in NSW, and the Forrestfield Airport Link in Western Australia.
Top funding priorities are national land transport projects including inland rail ($893.7 million), Northern Australia roads ($600 million) and beef roads ($100 million).
“By working together, we will build a legacy of liveable, sustainable, productive cities and regions for future generations,” Mr Turnbull said.
Mr Shorten labelled the prime minister’s claim that $50 billion will be spent on infrastucture a “big fat lie”.
He criticised the nine months it took for the government to respond to IA’s report and the lack of commitment to major projects during the election.
“All they are offering is a review, a discussion paper and a study,” he said.
Labor had a real plan for nation-building and called on the prime minister to ditch the reviews, rhetoric and pessimism.
“Australia needs something more.”