When I was young, I learned that there are two types of expenditure: expenditure that is for fun, and expenditure that is an investment that will grow wealth or reduce costs. Money spent on roads, if spent wisely, brings an economic benefit by reducing travel times, associated fuel costs, and transport costs. Efficient roads reduces fuel use per kilometre, and also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, spending on infrastructure that enables greater efficiencies is an investment.
The roads could be considered analogous to our arteries and veins, enabling life. Roads that are congested because infrastructure hasn’t kept up with urban growth are like blocked arteries, stifling our economic and psychological well-being.
There are many people who don’t recognise that road transport is essential to our future. They are living in politically correct denial. Politicians and bureaucrats would love us all to take public transport, cycle, or walk everywhere so they don’t have to spend our money on boring things like roads. Then they could spend it on great “nation-building” projects like the Adelaide to Darwin railway, or the NBN. Hallelujah, brothers!!
However, until we can develop practical alternatives to car ownership and road transport, we are stuck with roads as an essential element in our economic development. Personally, I’d like to see all long-distance transport to go via train, but I’m realistic enough to know that it’s not practical — particularly if the rail is administered by government.
If motorists could see that their taxes had been spent wisely, they might not resent being robbed so that public transport infrastructure, cycling tracks, and pedestrian bridges could be built, which are of no economic benefit whatsoever. Public transport should provide an economic benefit, but when income is in the order of 20% of total costs, it ends up being another discretionary expense that will always cost us more than it saves. This is fine if you use public transport, or ride a bicycle — but the next time you rant at motorists for driving, or motoring enthusiasts for existing, remember, without them, you’d have an even bigger hole in the budget to fill.
What utter pap
Mark Latham writes: Re. “A media tart?” (Tuesday). Gerard Henderson should spend less time worrying about how many interviews he has had and more time trying to improve the standard of his work.
In Friday’s Media Watch Dog he claimed that in my Australian Financial Review review of Bob Carr’s diaries, I described the book as “wearisome crap”. I would never be so crude, of course. The word I used was “pap”.
This confirms something we have always suspected about Henderson: given the quality of his writing, it is impossible to tell the difference between pap and crap.