Balancing the books takes a back seat as the government stages a welcome funding boost for better, safer roads.
The economy, the deficit – even the Budget Tree – all look a bit different to how the Treasurer would have initially imagined following the election last year.
The Government went loud and large in this week’s Budget with $14 billion worth of extra infrastructure funding focused on job creation and economic stimulus. This was on top of its 10-year $100 billion infrastructure pipeline announced as part of the 2018-19 Budget.
The Budget’s commitment to transport projects over the next four years is set to help protect Australian jobs and importantly, protect lives on the nation’s roads.
Life-saving road safety investment
Amidst the billions, the Government sprang a welcome surprise with a promise of $2 billion for a new road safety program.
It’s estimated that $2 billion over 18 months will buy 3,000 kilometres of life-saving road improvements and support the creation of thousands of jobs right across the country.
The best part? Respective states and territories will be required to provide road safety data as a key condition of funding. This will mean the federal and state governments will be able to monitor the success of road safety policies in ‘real time’ and make changes when necessary.
Early messages from the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister, who has carriage of road safety, indicate that funding will be on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. This means the federal government will hold states and territories lagging behind to account, and re-allocate funding to those that can spend it and demonstrate they are serious about their safety responsibilities. This is a welcome step.
Use it or lose it
The race is now on for state and territory governments to roll out their road safety projects as quickly and effectively as possible.
New shoulder sealing, rumble strips to alert drivers they are moving out of their lane, median treatments to prevent head-on collisions, and barriers to prevent run-off-road crashes and protect against roadside hazards, are all examples of what motorists can expect their governments to pitch for.
The challenge for government will be to ensure its funding guidelines are nationally consistent in a world where measurements, assessments and data collection vary from state-to-state.
What does this mean for the next National Road Safety Strategy? Will some competitive tension between states help drive down our road toll? These are some very good questions for the months that follow.
Motorists continue to pay their own way
It’s an often-forgotten fact that every time most people fill up their car they pay 42.3 cents in fuel tax for every litre of fuel. But only half of that collected fuel excise was going back into the roads or infrastructure that motorists rely on.
The Budget confirmed that motorists will continue to pay their own way, with the average household expected to contribute $1,188 in fuel excise alone in 2020-2021.
And in further news, the Budget papers show that 82 per cent of net fuel excise will be invested in land transport infrastructure in 2020-2021, rising to 98 per cent next year and 100 per cent by 2022-2023.
This means that every cent you pay in fuel tax will be put back into better roads or other land transport infrastructure. This is a welcome outcome for motorists.
Journey begins on road safety recovery
Road safety is everyone’s responsibility – including the Australian Government.
The federal government is to be congratulated for responding to Australia’s road trauma figures in a way that will also drive regional economic stimulus and jobs growth.
We’re looking forward to examining the detail of these arrangements and making sure the opportunity is not missed to tackle road trauma.
If it’s done correctly, not only will we be well-equipped in our fight to reduce deaths and serious injuries on our roads but an investment in roads, through job creation and economic stimulus, will see addressing road safety as a key vehicle for the nation on its journey to a COVID-19 recovery.