(extracted from here)
- Clay Lucas
- March 31, 2009
"USING a train, tram or a bus should attract the same tax concessions as driving a car, both Connex and the State Government have told a Senate inquiry into federal funding of the nation's public transport.
"Public transport fares attract no tax concession," Connex's head of corporate affairs, Mark Paterson, yesterday told the inquiry, which is conducting hearings throughout Australia.
"Tax concessions to private motorists should either be removed or similar concessions be afforded to public transport users," Mr Paterson said.
The more kilometres Australian motorists clock up in their company car, the more they are rewarded by the fringe benefits tax system. Less generous tax concessions apply to public transport use. The Brumby Government's Department of Transport also made a presentation to the inquiry, and the department's head of policy, Michael Hopkins, agreed public transport should attract tax concessions, although he said tax incentives for drivers should stay.
"Fringe benefit tax currently treats motor vehicle use and public transport differently," Mr Hopkins said. "We would be seeking more equitable treatment of public transport."
It was also vital the Rudd Government began funding big public transport projects to deal with the huge influx of passengers on to trains, trams and buses, he said.
"We are in uncharted territory in terms of patronage (growth)," Mr Hopkins said, pointing to an 11 per cent rise in use of Melbourne's public transport system last year alone.
Last year, 480 million trips were made on the city's public transport network — 48 million more than in 2007. This has left the train and tram system, in particular, struggling to cope.
Arguments that more services could be run, using the existing train system in particular — as espoused by RMIT transport academic Paul Mees for years — were wrong, Mr Hopkins said.
Small efficiencies were possible, he said, but a huge efficiency increase — one that the existing public transport system could not deliver — was needed.
"As much as we would love there to be huge amounts of untapped capacity just waiting for us to flick the switch, it is just not true, unfortunately."
Australia is one of the few developed countries in which the federal government does not fund public transport but funds roads. The Hawke government was the last to directly fund public transport. Prime Minster Kevin Rudd last year announced his intention to fund urban public transport.
Greens senator Scott Ludlam, who initiated the inquiry, said a common theme had emerged at hearings throughout the country: a lack of co-ordination of public transport.
"We have train, tram and bus services around the country cannibalising and competing with each other," he said."
Man, this is getting weird. Two consecutive Tuesdays; two positive articles. I'm beginning to wonder if I woke up in the wrong universe again (which is sometimes embarrassing). "Which way is clockwise here?" is my usual test. Of course, some universes don't have clocks (which is always frustrating). Relax; I'll work it out.