Missed opportunity for better public transport

Tomorrow the Australian Government begins handing out cash to families in an effort to stimulate the economy. Does it strike anyone as odd that the Government is giving our taxes back to us just before Christmas and is urging us to spend “to help make ends meet”?

If ever there was a short term solution this is it and we’ll have to wait and see whether it is actually a solution or whether the Government has just blown a $4.8 billion hole in our budget surplus and all the kids got awesome Christmas presents.

Whatever happened to planning for the future? Hasn’t the increase in oil prices over the last few years provided any clarity on the need for long term solutions for sustainable transport? Oil prices are down for now but how long with it be before they surpass their 2008 peak. One year? Two years?

Admittedly, the press release mentioned above lists the following under Nation Building:

The Rudd Government will fast track its nation-building agenda to help shield Australians from the global financial crisis.

The Government will accelerate the implementation of the Government’s three nation building funds.  Government Ministers will bring forward their interim Infrastructure Report so that work can commence in 2009 on projects in the key areas of:

  • Education and Research;
  • Health and Hospitals;
  • Transport and Communications.

To fast-track these projects, the Government will be seeking referral of the legislation for the Nation Building Funds into a Senate Committee this week.

I agree that we need better transport infrastructure almost everywhere in Australia but if we took a long term view wouldn’t it be better to improve public transport systems to the point where they took pressure off the roads? The last thing we need now is more roads with more traffic lights to cope with an ever increasing number of cars. We need trains, trams, buses and bike lanes.

It is too late now but spending that $4.8 billion on public transport upgrades would have at least been a step towards preparing our country for high oil prices. It would have also created long term jobs which is something these cash handouts won’t do.

The Daily Reckoning has some excellent tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the US attempts to recover from the financial crisis:

Curing the Problem of Over-Consumption by Spending

“Going for Broke” to Avoid a “Financial Collapse”

Is Australia going down the same path? Tighten your seatbelts Australia, we could be in for a long and bumpy drive when we should be taking the train, tram or riding our bikes.


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