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Minister discusses infrastructure development.

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Sydney Radio

The Graham Richardson Show

Richardson interview with Anderson



Announcer:  Graham Richardson  Interviewee:  John Anderson


Date: 18/11/99  Time: 07:05



Richardson: Good morning John.



Anderson: Good morning Graham



Richardson: Are you really suggesting that Canberra should get out of the road building game.


Anderson No I’m not. I’m sorry, I have to say the story gives a totally false impression of an idea that we are exploring. What I actually said was that we need to involve the private sector in infrastrucuture development in Australia to the greatest degree possible. We already do that there’s nothing new about the private sector building roads. I’ve said that outside heavily trafficked areas, you can’t use tolls. So in other words, I actually said quite correctly you can’t use tolls on most of the highway grid but it may be possible to look at a European model called shadow tolling where you bring works forward, you build it a little earlier and the government still pays for them through what’s called a shadow toll but it involves paying them off over a longer period of time. I have floated that idea before: it may or may not work in Australia. But in fact the precise point is - you can’t put a toll on very much of the national highway grid in the way that some other countries would.



Richardson: Well here in Sydney we have had some roads that have been built in recent times on which we pay a toll. The M2, the M4, the M5, all the avenues from the city that go, if you like, north-west and west. We pay on those. You suggested the Western Orbital road according to the paper this morning. If the first part of the story is wrong maybe the second bit - is that true?


Anderson:  Oh, I held it up as an example of a road where the traffic volumes might be high enough to support a toll. That’s all I said. By contrast I was making the point that most of the national highway grid would never support a toll. You can see In fact the very point I was trying to make was somehow or other and I can see how it’s happened - been turned around. Now a shadow toll is a different matter altogether. It doesn’t mean that you pay a toll, it means that the government pays It for you but it shadows, if you like, or it pays for the traffic volumes if the private sector were to build a road. The point is that the private sector can often build more road for a given amount of money and you can obtain savings and you get more mad for your road dollar.



Richardson: But the punter doesn’t have to pay.



Anderson:  No, no that was the very point I was making. The story this morning I think somehow or other creates the Impression that we’re going to move to tolls when in fact what I was saying was that on the overwhelming bulk of the roads tolls where you pull up, put your money in the slot, won’t work. The traffic volumes aren’t there. But It may be possible to look at what’s called Public Private Partnership. It’s an English model where what is called a shadow toll is used, the government pays the shadow toll based on traffic usage.



Richardson: So you’d get out of the building in the sense of it being done by public servants If you like but at the end of the day it still gets built and what you do is pay for that building.



Anderson: Yeah that’s right. Now the private sector has done an awful lot of road construction recently, there’s nothing new about that either. The story implies that for the first time - the way it’s written in the Herald - the private sector will build roads. Well, that’s not the case at all. All I was doing was exploring some options in a wide-ranging speech about how we help rural and regional Australia in making our infrastructure dollars go further .



Richardson: Okay, well that makes me fell a lot better. I’m more relaxed and comfortable having heard the explanation Can I ask you one other question as long as I’ve got you on the line. This current round of tax reforms you’ve seen farmers and their organisation the National Farmers Federation expressing a fair bit of opposition to the concept that basically I suppose trusts are being done away with. Now given that most of the punters listening to this show this morning, most of the people who live in Sydney don’t have trusts it’s a pretty rare event is it fair for farmers to want to cling onto those trusts while getting as you’ve pointed out I think lot’s of other goodies out of the tax package.


Anderson:  Well actually small businesses use trusts quite widely. Farmers sometimes use them mainly for asset preservation or intergenerational farm transfer and they will still be able to do that Graham. And the trust will still work for that purpose, I think we’ve still got some issues here we’re still working through and Peter Costello’s just seen the National Farmers’ Federation. We’ll continue to work this through. We don’t want them to be unworkable; on the other hand we don’t want them to be open to rorts. Now I don’t believe many people do rort them but you know in the day and age we live in If there’s an opportunity then there’ll be someone who’ll come in and ruin what’s worked very well for a lot of people by doing the wrong thing.



Richardson:  Yeah, if you create a millimetre wide crack in a tax law people will drive trucks through it, no doubt about that.



Anderson: Well that’s right and the sad part of it is that I am sure that you know that’s not the sort of thing small businesses and farmers have been doing. However there’s always that opportunity for somebody else to come in and do the wrong thing. But you know as I say, the National Farmers Federation has been meeting with the Government, we’re working through our areas of difficulty. We want tax reform to work for small business and farmers it’s pretty tough out in regional areas as you know. We’re certainly not trying in any way to diminish the effectiveness of business operations at the same time that we don’t want to leave anything open that can be abused.


Richardson: We don’t, thanks very much for talking to us John, always a pleasure.