Who will the tolls vote for in the NSW election

Residents of the coalition’s 15th least significant seat, Badgery’s Creek, will be fined $25 in one-way tolls to the CBD. Labor Party polls have highlighted tolls as a vote-winning issue and opposition leader Chris Minns alludes to ‘Tollmania’ at every opportunity. If voters decide next March to blame the politicians who signed those deals, the 12-year government could show the coalition the exit.


Jago Dodson, professor of urban policy at RMIT University, says Australians are much more car dependent than other countries because of our history. After World War II, the federal government wanted to demonstrate our status as a manufacturing nation by promoting the automotive industry. Cars, especially the Australian-made Fords and Holdens, became iconic, and all future city trips were about prioritizing road building, says Dodson.

Also, as state governments became debt-averse in the 1990s, toll contracts allowed them to keep debt off the government books and put the blame for toll increases on operators rather than politicians.

Tolls don’t even solve driving’s biggest problem, which is traffic jams. We all know that a new freeway quickly becomes as crowded as the road it replaced. If tolls were increased to the point of pricing cars off toll roads, traffic would simply shift to local roads, Dodson says. That would displace traffic jams instead of reducing them.

Every car on the road emits 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide annually. According to the Association of Public Transport Users, 95 percent of transport emissions come from cars, trucks and planes, compared to just 5 percent from trains, trams and buses.


Over the decades, both sides of NSW policy have entered into toll road deals that keep information such as the money collected “commercially confidential” and potentially include “exclusivity clauses” that compensate toll companies for declining public transport projects in the number of drivers using their tolls.

This kind of lack of clarity in government decision-making was a key issue in the last federal election that local independents successfully campaigned for.

A NSW House of Lords committee recently conducted an inquiry into road pricing; A private member’s bill calling for more transparency on toll schemes has passed the Legislative Council and will be debated in the House of Commons in October’s parliamentary sessions. The leader of the Greens’ committee, Abigail Boyd, told Parliament she understood “how secretive the government has become when it comes to these toll contracts, rather than letting the public decide, based on real and accurate information, whether the toll.” charged or not Prices are fair”.

The committee was told that NSW governments have spent about $100 million on the road network over the past few decades.

“Imagine,” says Dodson, “if that money had been spent on a subway system in the metro area and a good bus system and light rail system. It would be a very different city from the traffic-calmed, toll-road dependent city it is now.”

Margot Saville is a journalist and author.

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Joel McCord

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