A report published by the Infrastructure Finance Working Group, a Gillard government taskforce comprising of Treasury officials and experts from ANZ, KPMG, Royal Bank of Scotland, Alinta Energy and industry associations, has recommended a stronger push towards the user-pays approach to infrastructure financing used in toll roads.
According to the Australian Financial Review, charges such as road tolls were identified as a key way of increasing the funding pool for infrastructure projects, and may also have a positive impact on congestion and bottlenecks.
The report also recommends an examination of the current tolling system across the nation, with current road tolls levied on an ad-hoc basis, and more holistic planning of the entire road network.
In addition to the recommendations on road tolling, the report also recommends that the federal and state governments begin raising cash for investment in new infrastructure by selling key assets, such as national ports, water and roads, to superannuation funds and using the proceeds for new roads, rail and ports.
The plan is seen as more politically palatable than straight privatisations to retire public debt. It would also provide local investment opportunities for Australian superannuation funds, which like low-risk infrastructure assets and would mostly prefer to invest locally rather than overseas.
The Infrastructure and Transport Minister, Anthony Albanese, plans to publish the panel’s strategy within weeks. The report is expected to support NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell’s plans to privatise the state’s power stations to pay for new infrastructure.
The full report is available online and can be view on the Infrastructure Australia website here.