Senate debates

Thursday, 24 November 2022


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

5:30 pm

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party, Shadow Minister for Water) Share this | Hansard source

I was saying earlier that I can't support the Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022 because it is again the Albanese government rejecting rural and regional Australia. I was talking about what we did in government and our future fuels and vehicles strategy. We also committed $2.1 billion to help increase the uptake of low- and zero-emission vehicle technologies, and market movements were happening.

There is an uptake of electric vehicles, and the range and choice of suitable cars is widening. Tomorrow, thanks to Senator David Pocock, I am going to trial an electric ute, which will be an experience, indeed, because one of the things I hear from where I live is there are just no commercially available electric utes or decent farm vehicles yet. Given that, and given technology is advancing, the market is actually determining it. Why is the government deciding it needs to interfere in the market? For what purpose?

The independent Parliamentary Budget Office have reported that this bill will cost billions of dollars through the next decade. To back up that conclusion, Treasury is not even able to articulate the long-term costs of the measure. It's billions of dollars in unnecessarily forgone revenue, helping the elite, when we face massive infrastructure rebuilds because of the floods that have gone on now, with massive ongoing and extensive natural disaster repairs to our roads network. These electric vehicles will contribute nothing to general revenue because they don't pay fuel excise. It's billions of dollars in lost revenue which could have alternatively been put towards hospitals, more regional doctors, more regional teachers and more support for small businesses—but, no. The government are trying to convince Australians that they are strong, fiscal managers. This bill shows they are not. This bill is a typical example of the government's usual modus operandi, their grab for votes, irrespective of the benefits or the consequences of their too-little-thought-through policies.

It's not just the independent Parliamentary Budget Office that thought it an unsound idea. Despite being called 'tax reform' by the Treasurer, the Senate inquiry held into this legislation showed it to be high-cost, low-impact and designed with no consultation with industry, government or civil society. A number of experts have actually raised serious questions about the equity, fiscal sustainability and price pressures this will place on the EV market. Professor Miranda Stewart, director of the Tax Group at the University of Melbourne Law School and fellow at the Tax and Transfer Policy Institute at the Crawford School of Public Policy, is quoted as saying the policy will deliver subsidy to 'a rather narrow class of employee beneficiaries and provides the largest benefit to the highest income earners'. Guess what? They don't live in regional Australia.

The bill does not line up with the government's sensible economic policy and fiscal repair promises that they had prior to the election. The Treasurer said in June:

… Government must make the hard decisions necessary for responsible budget repair.

…   …   …

… making sure that spending is about building value, not buying votes.

Why are we buying votes through subsidising electric vehicles for those who can already afford them, those who are getting a salary-sacrifice benefit? The government can't say what this bill will actually do for emissions reduction, as I said earlier. If you plug your car in overnight to recharge, chances are you are plugged into the grid and you're burning coal. They can't say what this bill will do to the EV market and they can't even say how they would assess whether it is a success or not.

The best thing the government could do is scrap this bill, take the revenue that they would achieve through the ongoing fringe benefit tax and invest in practical measures that would actually drive investment into EV infrastructure, which would by its own measure lead to market change, lead to behavioural change and see more people take up the opportunity to drive electronic vehicles. As I said at the outset, on this side we're not anti electronic vehicles, we are not anti electric and we're not anti low or zero emissions transport, but we are pro investing into how to make it possible and not just delivering a benefit to those who actually don't need it.

Market pressures and technology advances are and will continue driving wider uptake of electric vehicles. We will soon see the day when we do get the long-distance trucks, cars, utes, farm vehicles and indeed even electric vehicles capable of towing trailers and caravans, as Senator O'Sullivan talked about in his earlier speech, and we will see vehicles that will be able to travel the hundreds of kilometres that I indeed do just to get to work here in Canberra before needing to recharge. But that is where we are moving to. Making current electric vehicles cheaper for a narrow, privileged few will not make that happen, so I cannot support this bill.


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