Federal, State and local governments would have to work together to develop road strategies and priorities as part of the process in allocating road funds, Transport Minister Pam Beggs said today.
She told a roads conference in Perth that these strategies also should clearly define the respective responsibilities of the three tiers of government.
"Funding roads, particularly local government roads, is not an issue that should be subjected to some form of auction," Mrs Beggs said.
"The whole roads debate needs to be looked at in a much wider context."
Mrs Beggs said in the past few years there had been a much greater degree of co-operation among State, Federal and local governments in relations to roads.
For example, the Commonwealth had accepted responsibility for the national highway network and roads of national significance.
A report of the Road Classification Review due in July would set out the road responsibilities of State and local governments.
The Western Australian Government already had implemented a Roads 2020 strategy under the Better Government Agreement.
Mrs Beggs said it was significant that the first memorandum of understanding signed under that agreement between the WA Municipal Association and the State Government focused on roads.
She said local government also needed to realise it was not alone in its quest for more roads funds. State Governments had a similar tussel with the Commonwealth.
Mrs Beggs said total roads funding in Western Australia was between $390 million and $415 million, depending on the level of Federal contributions.
However, it was significant that local government contributed only about 19 per cent of this total.
"In WA, local governments' road expenditure per person is well below the levels in most other States," the Minister said.
"However, this relatively low level is caused by a lower local government tax burden per capita than in the other states.
"It is therefore significant that the WA Municipal Association has called on local government to increase its level of expenditure on roads.
Mrs Beggs said the State Government had put the question of road funding in the public arena with the release in 1991 of a task force report.
"The report showed that 90 per cent of the State's roads are in good condition and out road users generally are well served by the existing road network," she said.
"But it warned the State's road network would be placed under increasing pressure in the next 10 years because of the ageing of the system.
"Therefore the Government is keen to increase community awareness of the roads system and gain feedback on what the community considers an appropriate level of road funding.
"This feedback would be an integral part of the regional road strategies now being developed under the Better Government Agreement."
Mrs Beggs said the Government already was matching a WA Municipal Association call for two cents of the fuel franchise level to be dedicated to local roads.
She said calls for the whole of the fuel franchise levy to be dedicated to roads failed to recognise that it would leave a $40 million `hole' in other areas of Government expenditure.
"The fuel franchise levy current raises about $133 million of which $43 million goes to the public transport system through Transperth," Mrs Beggs said.
"This allocation also benefits road-users as public transport eases traffic congestion and wear and tear on the roads."
Mrs Beggs said that so far as national road transport reforms were concerned, the State Government was steadfast in its opposition to increased heavy vehicle registration charges.
"We have made it clear that the whole issue of road transport charges needs to be addressed if we are going to be realistic about micro-economic reform of the transport sector," she said.