THE ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS OF POLLUTION IN AUSTRALIA
Article first published online: 13 APR 2010
1971 The Economic Society of Australia
Economic Papers: A journal of applied economics and policy
Volume E1, Issue 38, pages 1–15, October 1971
How to Cite
Davidson, B. R. (1971), THE ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS OF POLLUTION IN AUSTRALIA. Economic Papers: A journal of applied economics and policy, E1: 1–15. doi: 10.1111/j.1759-3441.1971.tb00717.x
- Issue published online: 13 APR 2010
- Article first published online: 13 APR 2010
Water, air and land pollution exist in Australia, but are still well below the levels found in the U.S.A. and Europe. It has not been demonstrated that either water or air pollution causes serious economic loss in Australia. On the other hand the high cost of using automobiles as a means of transport in the cities and the losses caused by accidents are an economic drain on the economy.
Most of the water pollution in Australia could be removed by sewering all urban centres at a cost of between $700 and $1,100 million to public authorities and of an additional $450 million to householders in unsewered urban areas. The cost to public authorities should be contrasted with the $635 million spent on roads in 1969–70 and with the $672 million spent on irrigation between 1948 and 1969, much of which would be difficult to justify on economic grounds.
These figures are particularly pertinent when it is remembered that Australia's citizens have demonstrated that they are prepared to pay for the cost of sewerage. Australia's sewage authorities in major cities show a profit after meeting operating expenses, interest and repayment of capital charges. The same cannot be said for irrigation farmers or for many road users.
Air pollution could become a major problem in Australian cities if the automobile remains the major means of transport. The problem could be overcome at a cost of $300 per vehicle or a total of $840 million for the 2.8 million cars in large cities.
The major land pollution problem is the congestion caused in large cities by the automobile. The problem arises because the automobile is not charged for the space it occupies. In the business centre of Sydney the correct charge could range from $1 to $3 per hour. Once land is charged for the automobile becomes an expensive means of transport in cities. American figures suggest that trains can move peak crowds at the rate of 30,000 per hour at a total cost of $9 million per annum, compared with $29 million per annum for automobiles.
A proper distribution of resources into uses for which citizens are prepared to pay and economic charges for services provided by the State would probably completely overcome the pollution problems which do exist in Australia at present.