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Future Freight Networks : Yearbook 2017
81 FUTURE FREIGHT NETWORKS 2017 He noted, however, that there is still a very significant gap between long-term planning and investment, and that until very recently, the process for project selection has also been poor. Thus, even though the past decade has witnessed the biggest lift in transport infrastructure spending over the last century, people are asking whether we got value for money. Mrdak said that the National Strategy needs to consider those issues, as well as how to ensure that regulations facilitate the uptake of technology to improve efficiency. We also have to ask ourselves if we have the right pricing signals in our land transport network. Rod Sims, Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, noted that the development of a National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy should receive far more attention than it does, given its economic importance. Sims highlighted road pricing reform as especially important, but noted that there is a considerable lack of awareness about it, both in the general community and among some decision-makers. The mere mention of ‘congestion pricing’ immediately kills any sensible discussion, because it is portrayed as a new tax. He suggested that the best way to improve road funding would be to hypothecate the money raised from road taxes and charges, thus ensuring that revenue raised from them is actually invested in the road network. This will ultimately establish greater certainty in road funding, because roads are not competing for a pool of revenue that must also fund other services, including health and education. It is interesting to note that even Treasury now supports such an approach. Traditionally, it has opposed the hypothecation of taxes, but the reality is that the current system is not providing the revenue needed to maintain our road network. Sims pointed out that as vehicles become more fuel efficient, or as people switch to electric vehicles, there is less and less revenue being raised from fuel taxes. We now have the technology available to measure where, when and how far a vehicle travels. It is only logical that we use that data for road pricing, instead of relying on inefficient fuel taxes. He also touched on the need for further regulatory reforms around shipping in Australia, arguing that we maintain rules that are not protecting anything, but are imposing a significant economic and productivity cost. Andrew Ethell and panel