Senate debates

Thursday, 10 May 2018


Interstate Road Transport Legislation (Repeal) Bill 2018; Second Reading

12:32 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

I was discussing the impact and the importance of cleaning up our vehicle fleet, because we have got a huge issue in terms of truck pollution in our cities and across our country. It is so important because diesel is the fastest-growing fuel in the transport sector, which in itself is the fastest-growing sector of our economy in terms of its carbon pollution. Reducing the pollution from our truck fleet is incredibly important. If the government is serious about its commitments under the Paris Agreement, it needs to get serious about decarbonising our road transport industry, taking action so that we have more efficient diesel vehicles, switching more freight onto rail and, in time, moving our trucking fleet off fossil fuels entirely.

Global warming is the overwhelming issue facing the world. If we don't reduce our carbon pollution, we are literally cooked. And Australia is lagging so much when we have so much potential to take serious action that would mean not just that our carbon pollution would plummet but that it would leave us with a legacy of clean air and healthier communities.

In addition, this isn't just about carbon pollution and climate change. Minister Frydenberg intervened in our national energy debate earlier this week, drawing attention to our record-low liquid fuel stock holdings and calling for an urgent review into Australia's fuel security. The Greens take Australia's fuel security really seriously. I was an active participant in the Senate inquiry into fuel security three years ago that made some very important recommendations. We supported the government's liquid fuel emergency bill that was introduced last year to empower the government to enter into ticketing arrangements with liquid fuel producers and bring us back into compliance with our 90-day stockholding requirement under the International Energy Agency. We also supported the government's bill to improve the collection of statistics on petroleum and other fuels, which allowed the collection from industry of statistics on their existing oil holdings and operations and which will improve the transparency of Australia's total current holdings across the sector. We welcome the government's proposed fuel security review, but it needs to look at all the options that are needed to keep our country moving. The current shortage of real liquid fuel stock holdings should not be seen as an excuse for the oil and gas supermajors to open up new oilfields across our land and oceans or for the government to subsidise the construction of new refineries or other fossil fuel infrastructure.

We need to remember that, to achieve 90 days of stock holdings, it's just as valid to reduce overall oil demand in our transport sector to the point where our existing stock holdings reach 90 days. It's as effective to do that as it is to build up our stock holdings without reducing demand. Both would achieve the same effect but each would entail very different consequences. The latter path, the path big oil and gas want us to go along, would lead to an increased risk of catastrophic oil spills, more greenhouse gas pollution, boom-bust communities left footing the bill for stranded assets and unrehabilitated wells, and corporate super profits being whisked off overseas. We've seen this over and over again. Instead, we can reduce demand, which will reduce our independence on oil, lead to cleaner air, healthier communities, lower carbon pollution and cheaper fuel bills for freight operators, while allowing our trucking industry to keep pace with the ongoing revolution in vehicle technology.

We, the Greens, released our electric vehicle policy in March this year. We've set out a path for 100 per cent of new light vehicle sales to be battery electric, plug-in hybrids, or fuel cell vehicles by 2030. We've been campaigning for decades for a dramatic increase in funding for public transport and cycling infrastructure, and an end to ideological commitment to funding toll roads, which has no effect on relieving congestion or improving our cities. We're calling for more freight on rail, for high-speed rail to reduce the need for intercity aviation and for the speedy implementation of tight, light vehicle fuel efficiency standards. Yet, as we saw in the budget this week, these are exactly the sorts of measures that the government has squibbed on. Not only have we essentially seen no action on reducing pollution from heavy vehicles; this week's budget has continued to lead us down the path of funding more and more polluting toll roads, which is only going to lead to a tangled web of tollways across our cities—more polluted air and more deaths from vehicle pollution.

Today we're taking action, as per our second reading amendment, to reduce pollution. We are expanding on the suite of real solutions that the Greens are putting forward to reduce Australia's oil dependence and transform our cities into healthy, livable places in which to live and thrive. We are calling for a determined government action to reduce carbon pollution and fuel consumption across our heavy vehicle fleet. There are plenty of countries that have been doing this. Japan has seen its CO2 and fuel consumption decline by approximately 1.2 per cent a year. China, the US and India have followed in its wake, and the European Union is deliberating on its preferred model as we speak. We've got to catch up with the rest of the world. It's not good enough for the government to sit on its hands and let the oil and gas companies and the big manufacturers set the agenda and standards for our transport sector.

The stamp duty exemptions which were contained in the Federal Interstate Registration Scheme were set up to drive improvement in the safety, environmental quality and efficiency of our heavy vehicle fleet. It's now clear that that program came up short in making those changes happen, but the core idea that the federal government should take the lead on building a cleaner and safer future for our children, our cities and our communities should not be lost with the repeal of this bill. I commend this bill to the Senate and I call on the chamber to support our second reading amendment, which would mean we would be moving ahead on getting cleaner cities that will benefit us all.


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