The state government’s transport announcement could be criticised on a number of grounds. The fact it will take so long to deliver, claims of inaction on the much-discussed road tunnels, an increase in fares, the magnitude of the spending plans and even the absence of private sector participation.
But The Age’s Jason Dowling, a self-assured state gallery chap comfortable in his own certitude, has attacked the whole programme on the basis that it contains a “tax” on public transport.
THE “TAX” THAT ISN’T
We went looking for this tax. It wasn’t in yesterday’s announcement. Although an increase in public transport fares was included.
Nor is it in the Victorian Liberals’ criticism of the government’s plans. Simon Troeth wrote these words for their leader Ted Baillieu:
“Fare increases will come directly out of the pockets of Victorian families who will be paying for John Brumby’s incompetence as Treasurer and as Premier.
“Labor has missed the opportunity when the money was available to invest in public transport infrastructure, and these increased fares will be the salt in the wound for all Victorian families,” Mr Baillieu said.
And yet the Age splashed today with Dowling’s claim that a “new transport tax” will “help fund” the $38 billion plan.
He says “A 5 per cent tax will be added to fares from 2012 and again in 2013, raising $500 million.”
ALL’S FARE IN LOVE AND WAR
Even using Fairfax accounting, a $500 million (annually recurring) fare increase doesn’t do a great deal to “help fund” a $38 billion spend.
So enthusiastic was Dowling for his “tax” spin that he even verballed the head of the Public Transport Users Association Paul Mees surrogate Daniel Bowen:
Public Transport Users Association president Daniel Bowen condemned the tax
Yet while Bowen seemed unhappy about the plan – surely a good sign that the government got the balance right – he makes no reference to a new tax in his commentary on the plan.
The Age’s spin is rarely so obvious and as obtuse as that laid on by Jason Dowling today. VEXNEWS sought his explanation about why a public transport fare increase was a tax.Â He failed to respond, leaving undenied claims that he was guilty of propagandising for the far-left and Ted Baillieu.