House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

3:50 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Albanese Labor government's misguided priorities for Australia. Mallee voters don't buy Labor's song-and-dance routine that they are the party of tax cuts. Stages one, two and three income tax cuts were under the coalition's policy. On stage three, Labor told us 100 times they would back them in. Then we are told to believe the Prime Minster had some 'road to Damascus' insight—an epiphany to shift the narrative on tax cuts. Voters remember governments that break their promises, and these governments are consequently found to be untrustworthy. We on this side will be reminding voters.

Another area of massive destruction of this Albanese Labor government is on the reckless rush to renewables: 82 per cent by 2030. Mallee is ground zero for this rollout, with wind-turbine cowboys stirring bad blood in my regional communities, pitting mate against mate and farmer against farmer with secret deals that never come to fruition. But the bad blood will remain.

The Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, has called out this deplorable behaviour in his report on energy; the energy proponents botched community consultation. From local experience in Mallee, I can tell you: that report is the tip of the iceberg. This cowboy energy sector needs regulation, and the Nationals are working closely on ensuring regional communities have a voice and on ensuring that social licence is secured fair and square, not through proponents' underhanded behaviour, with handouts here and there, but through genuine approval from communities.

The energy minister, Chris Bowen, doesn't care, just like he doesn't care whether the residents of Mallee and their fellow Australians will ever see their $275 energy bill relief. Energy bill relief will be another broken promise, because only the mother of all subsidy programs could see, in net terms, that $275 reduction be delivered under energy bill hikes on Labor's watch.

But Labor aren't done hiking the cost of living for regional Australians; their family car tax, dressed up as a fuel emissions standard, is a cruel initiative that will rob regional Peter to pay inner-city Paul. Paul will be there, showing off his new electric vehicle on Lygon Street subsidised by the government, but Mallee residents like Peter will have no choice but to pay up to $25,000 more for their family car just so Paul can feel pious that he's supposedly saving the planet.

Labor's family car tax is designed to halt inner-city Labor seats from falling into Greens hands; make no mistake. Those are the seats with the highest EV take-up, and I won't let Labor pretend regional Australians will catch up with their city cousins on EV ownership.

Take Toorak, for instance, in Melbourne, where they have 24 times the EV take-up than either of the largest centres in my electorate, Mildura and Horsham. One Mallee car dealer told me that the push for electric vehicles was impractical in regional areas, saying, 'We lack the infrastructure of public charging stations.' This dealer told me there are issues with EV longevity and resale value, with some American dealers reducing sale prices by more than $5,000 as EV prices nosedive when they need new batteries. Battery replacement costs are so high that replacing an EV makes better sense than replacing a battery. Perversely, Mallee residents will pay extra when buying their SUV or family farm vehicle under Minister Bowen's plans to pay for EV subsidies. I spoke confidentially to one dealer last week who faces laying off a quarter of his 40-strong workforce due to the impact of Labor's family car tax.


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