Let’s all pay by phone

Remember the last National Government’s stupid hospital outpatient fees back in the 1990s? The ones that were eventually scrapped because they often cost more to collect than the revenue raised.

Well, it seems the last Labour Government fell into similar folly with its toll charges on the Orewa-Puhoi motorway.

Brian Rudman reveals in the New Zealand Herald that it costs $1.29 in transaction costs to collect each $2.00 car toll.

And for people who pay the toll by phone, it costs $2.70 to collect each $2.00 toll.

If everyone who travels on the Orewa-Puhoi motorway were to pay by phone, the NZ Transport Agency would make a thumping great loss from its tolling regime. And raising the toll to cover the administration costs would be extremely unpopular – remember how Maurice Williamson was shut down so quickly by John Key and Bill English during the election campaign when he suggested a $5 toll on new roads. That statement probably cost Williamson a senior Cabinet position.

So isn’t it time for a bit of people power. Let’s all pay by phone if we use the Orewa-Puhoi motorway, and we’ll soon see the end of the tolling regime.

And let the Orewa-Puhoi motorway debacle be a lesson to the current National Government, who seem to think that tolling and PPPs are a great way to fund its “Roads of National Significance”.

Well said, Jeanette!

Jeanette Fitzsimons blogged this morning on frogblog about the preoccupation of the media with what Winston Peters may have said and done.

The tragedy is that this is what passes for news, when we ought to be debating what is happening to our economy with rising prices for food, petrol, power and mortgages at the same time as economic contraction and loss of jobs? Shouldn’t we be debating the causes of this, and linking them with peak oil, resource limits and climate change? Most of all, shouldn’t we be debating what to do about it?

It’s not just the MSM – over on Key wee-blog David Farrar has devoted an extraordinary 34 separate threads in the past week to various aspects of Peters’ alleged behaviour, and what others have said and done in response to it.

Now, I’m not suggesting the allegations against Peters are not serious. They are. But they are being investigated by both the Serious Fraud Office and Parliament’s Privileges Committee, and all will come out in due course.

In a week when we saw Labour announce its Emissions Trading Scheme will go ahead and National announce it would be supporting tolls on roads, I would have thought both the MSM and bloggers might have been giving these issues some more attention.

Will the Government’s ETS be effective in reducing greenhouse emissions? Are the transport and agriculture sectors being brought into it too slow or too fast? Will people on low income be adequately protected against emitters passing on the cost of their emissions?

What roads will is National proposing to toll? Whose policy is the real one – Maurice Williamson’s or Bill English’s? How much will the toll charges be? What will the revenue be applied to – public transport infrastructure, or just more and more roads?

These are the real questions people should be asking in deciding how to cast their votes in an election that is less only 10 weeks away? Peters’ credibility is already close to zero – so let’s focus on the policies.