House debates

Thursday, 8 September 2022


Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022; Second Reading

10:40 am

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

That was a treat. I'm glad I arrived early. It was an interesting mix of facts and fiction. It's kind of peak irony, isn't it—having the member for New England here talking about 'making foolish statements in the parliament'. That's a direct quote. I was listening carefully. I think he said the electricity grid is close to collapse and we're a dumb country because we don't make cars here anymore. If only you'd been in government for the last 10 years, you might have been able to do something about this! What happened to the car industry? They were chased out of Australia—bye, bye, car industry. I think that was your government, Member for New England. The point of a government is to lead, apparently. This is what he told the chamber just there: the point of a government is to lead. If only he'd been in government for the last 10 years and could have done anything about all of these problems! I think, Minister, you walked in just as he was explaining to the parliament that it's really not such a dumb idea to bring uranium into the chamber. It's just like a lump of coal. The two are the same, and that would be fine.

Just when you thought the Libs couldn't get any weirder—even putting aside that contribution from the National Party—they do this: the party of tax cuts is here to oppose a tax cut on electric vehicles. It proves, I think, the point we heard yesterday in question time. There were a few good points made yesterday in question time. They are really the party of dregs and leftovers from the previous government. There's a pattern, isn't there? Just in the first few months since the election, they refused to turn up to the Jobs and Skills Summit. They oppose at every turn clean, green, renewable energy to put downwards pressure on power prices. They pretend that secret ministries don't really matter. If you thought that they were weird, there are other secret ministries—the strangest thing since Sir Prince Philip.

This bill to cut tax on electric vehicles—the Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022—is good for motorists, it's good for employers and it's good for climate action. The FBT exemption will apply to battery electric cars, hydrogen fuel cells and plug-in hybrids, with savings of up to $9,000 a year. I think it's $4,700 if you're buying it as an individual with salary sacrifice or novated leases.

I had correspondence about this bill. It was one of the first things in the first sitting week of parliament. Booran Motors, a local business, emailed me and said: 'Is this election promise going to happen? When are you going to do it?' I said, 'Well, I've got a good answer for you: we're introducing a bill into the parliament today.' They said, 'Is it going to pass the parliament?' I made a mistake. I said to them, 'Well, I'm sure it'll pass the parliament,' because I couldn't imagine a world where the opposition, the party of tax cuts, would oppose a tax cut on electric vehicles. But I'm going to have to contact Booran Motors. I visited them a couple of weeks ago to have a chat to understand. They got out the schedules. They explained how their novated leases work. They showed me the flow-through calculations, and actually the calculations they had were more optimistic than yours. They said it's going to incentivise employers and consumers to choose electric vehicles. So I apologise publicly for misadvising them, thinking that the opposition might support a tax cut on electric vehicles.

For the last decade, we've had this failing Liberal government actively working to hold Australia back and stop us embracing the future. They were running these disingenuous fear campaigns while the rest of the world raced ahead. Electric vehicles, according to the former Prime Minister, were going to end the weekend. No-one would be able to tow a trailer. I learnt something else from you in question time yesterday, Minister: the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party told Australians on radio, very firmly, that there was no firm in the world that manufactures electric utes. Well, that's not true, is it? To quote you, Minister, there are just a few small boutique firms: Mitsubishi, Ford and General Motors.

A government member: Startups!

Startups—that's right. Anyway, I'm sure she'll walk in and correct herself. But Australians understand far more than the opposition. They understand that electric vehicles are the way forward.

But let's be frank, with a couple of comments. Australia is currently the dumping ground, disgracefully, for the world's most polluting cars. As the member for New England reminded us, we don't make cars here anymore, because the former government chased them away. But the multinational car manufacturers dump their most polluting vehicles in Australia, and that's because we're the only country in the OECD that has no fuel efficiency standards and none under production. There's one developed country, I think, which is Russia, that also has no fuel efficiency standards, but it got kicked out of the OECD. So it's such illustrious company that we're in!

We are the dumping ground.

Too many Australians who are trying to buy an electric vehicle quickly at the moment can't get one quickly. There's not enough supply. We've been left behind because of this low intake, because there's no incentive for the manufacturers to send their cars to Australia. Why would they? They can keep selling polluting vehicles that no-one else in the developed world will buy now. That's the reason that Australians can't get a supply of electric vehicles. Frankly, we're a pimple on the backside of the global car market, and there are no proper incentives for them to increase supply, because we're a small market, we're a right-hand-drive vehicle market and, as I said, we have the worst vehicle emission standards in the developed world. So just keep sending 'em along! It's illustrious company, isn't it? That was possibly your finest moment in question time—'nyet zero'—thank you, Minister! But the hard reality is we are largely irrelevant to the major car manufacturers, especially at the moment, with the global supply chain difficulties, which affect everyone, but that's then compounded by the lack of fuel efficiency standards and our terrible policy settings.

Now, the manufacturers won't say it like that; they're very polite people. They'll nod, they'll talk about delays in chips and they'll say, 'It's a very tough world out there, and we're doing our best.' But that is the fact. That is what the industry bodies will tell you. That is what the industry analysts will tell you. It doesn't matter how polite the manufacturers are; until we fix our policy settings and provide some proper incentives for them to change their behaviour and send more electric cars our way, we're not going to get them. Australians are not going to be able to get the clean technology that will cut their fuel bills or remove their fuel bills, depending on the technology they choose. That is the cold hard truth. So we're going to need a range of policy changes to embrace the future and make sure that Australians can access clean technology and electric cars more rapidly.

This bill is therefore one contribution. It's not the whole answer. We had a whole list of problems from the member for New England and other opposition speakers as if they hadn't been in government for the last 10 years. Well, they weren't the government for the last 10 years; they were just parading around in the white cars and occupying the offices. They didn't do too much governing. But more work is needed.

The electric vehicle discount in this bill is just one key part of the government's Powering Australia Plan which will help to reduce emissions targets by 43 per cent by 2030 and net zero by 2050. In addition, this government will continue to provide the infrastructure for electric vehicles. In answer to some of the legitimate queries that were raised—the thing is it's all problems, no solutions. Those opposite spent 10 years talking down the future, avoiding the future, trying to pretend that that wasn't where the world was going, instead of preparing Australia for the future and bringing us there. So there's $500 million to the Driving the Nation Fund to establish 117 fast-charging stations on highways at an average interval of 150 kilometres—that should deal with range anxiety; it's well within the range of all electric vehicles—and to create a national hydrogen highways refuelling network.

There are also the vehicle emissions standards. The vehicle emissions standards will play an essential role in transforming Australia into a globally competitive market for electric vehicle intake. Australians are currently paying more for petrol and getting less value for the petrol that they're buying than drivers overseas because we don't have those fuel efficiency standards. Now, we do need to be careful and sensible about how this is done. We've got no choice but to take into account those supply constraints globally and make sure that, as we bring in fuel efficiency standards, electric vehicles will be available to avoid price shocks. That's something that the industry bodies are talking about to those who are interested in these things. This can be done, though, and it can be done sensibly, and we don't need to succumb to idiotic scare campaigns like those run by the previous Prime Minister and, indeed, the now opposition—the dregs of the previous government.

Overseas, there are a range of different incentives for manufacturers. I suppose the only good thing I could say about the fact that we're last in the developed world, the fact that we're the only country in the OECD not to have fuel efficiency standards—the only positive, if we want to put a positive spin on it—is that we have the opportunity to look at what other countries have done, to get there in the most efficient way and make our policy settings the best in the world, informed by everyone else's experience: who's got it right and who's got it wrong.

So I'm glad that the government is undertaking a proper, considered policy process—something alien to the former government. You just stood up and announced stuff because it felt good and it seemed like a good idea and you needed to have something to fill the daily media cycle. You announced stuff. It didn't matter whether it made sense. It didn't matter whether you delivered it. You just announced more stuff. You certainly didn't consult on it or write a discussion paper, put it out to the public and have a proper process—talk to industry, talk to government departments. You didn't do that. Well, that's what we're doing. So I'm delighted that the minister is running a proper policy process. Adult government is back, in the style of Hawke and Keating—governments that ran proper policy processes and exposed themselves to criticism. There will be a discussion paper out within the next month or so, I think, and the policy process will continue.

Finally, I just want to acknowledge the strong community support in my area and the work of the South East Councils Climate Change Alliance—councils right across south-east Melbourne who have been advocating for exactly the things the government speakers have been talking about. This bill is good for motorists, good for employers, good for climate action, and I encourage the opposition to get on board.


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