Senate debates

Thursday, 24 November 2022


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

6:28 pm

Photo of Ross CadellRoss Cadell (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I love cars. As I'm someone who came in here and started their first speech describing the last third of a lap of Mount Panorama, you might get that. I love everything about them. I love driving them, I like owning them, I like spannering on them and I like working on them. I don't love cleaning them—that's a downside. And yet I stand here against this bill. I can't make a great argument, because I will benefit from this bill. I have in my folder my order, dated 26 August 2021, for my Tesla, yet to be delivered. I'm proud to get out there because I want to drive that car. I bought it because I want to own it. I bought it because I want to have a crack. And it's not just that. I spoke to Toyota last year about a Toyota Mirai, a hydrogen car. It's a great car. James May loves it. I love it. I'm on a list. But I can't refuel it. I can get it but can't refuel it.

So what does this bill mean for me? This means that, on top of my taxpayer funded salary, you're going to give me another 30 grand to buy a car. I don't deserve it, but that's what this is. We're playing races not with cars but with technologies. We're going back to the gaslight versus the electric light or the Betamax versus the VHS, and we're trying to pick winners early.

There are different cars. As I said, there's the Mirai hydrogen car, and last month Volkswagen, in cooperation with Kraftwerk—which I thought was a 1980s German techno band but is now an automobile organisation—has lodged patents for a different kind of hydrogen engine, using ceramic instead of plastic. They get 2,000 kilometres of range out of a hydrogen car. You've got the Hyundai N Vision 74 coming out, another hydrogen car that's looking good. I'm watching this space. We all saw Richard Hammond's crash the Rimac, one of the leading-edge electric cars, which took two weeks to put out after it caught on fire because each cell kept on burning.

On this side, we have said that we're not anti electric car, but this is a waste of taxpayers' money. People who have had a windfall gain, like me, or been lucky or worked hard in life don't need taxpayers' funds to buy these cars. I have a company; I can do this. If we're going to spend this money, let's build the infrastructure that Senator McDonald was talking about to refuel these cars, to give them range and to give country and regional people the chance to have access to these same things. But we're not; we're giving money to people who are already likely to buy these cars. And we're backdating it for people who have already done this. We're going to say to people who have already bought cars, 'Please have some more money for making a decision that you've already made.' That's a great thing for them, but that's not good for the country. So we sit here looking at a bill that will fund people who don't need it to buy things they've already bought, and we are not out there funding the infrastructure needed. We're not making the cost of living easier for people or making it easier for people to get through what they have to get through.

This car won't be captured by road tax. I think Senator O'Sullivan mentioned this. We were working out the battery: there's a 100-kilowatt battery which weighs 666 kilograms. It will be chewing roads, but it won't be captured by the fuel tax. A Toyota Mirai isn't captured by the fuel tax, and we don't have the fuel infrastructure. There is some fuelling in Canberra, but there is nothing in Newcastle and nothing in the Hunter.

And what is this for? I was in my office when I heard Senator Rennick talking about the hairy-nosed wombat, but a wombat in the spotlights of a LandCruiser coming down the highway—'Oh, an energy electric car, a hydrogen car, we must support it.' That's not good policy. Just because it has some click words and we can share it and do a little TikTok energy dance doesn't make it good policy. Giving money to people who don't need it for decisions they've already made is the definition of waste.

I think COP27 has just been, but last year we went to COP26 and meet with Tesla and the climate change committee of the UK. Their point was not that we need to subsidise cars. People are buying as they see fit. What they were talking about was the infrastructure that can charge these cars, fuel these cars, prevent the road rage that is happening. That is the single determinant in what people take up—how usable they are. And this bill does nothing to make it usable. It takes funds from the government that should be going into building that fuelling infrastructure, and it puts those funds into the pockets of those who don't need it.

That's a good point. We haven't even got mobile coverage in the regions. How are we going to have charging stations out there for people? How are we going to incentivise that when it takes 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour to charge cars? If they can't get on their mobile phone in the bush, how are they going to charge a car? That's what we're not looking at here.

It is great that the take-up of electric cars in Australia is going well. I think hydrogen, if this new technology of VW and Kraftwerk picks up, could be a great thing. Let's not rush to outcomes for a media grab. Let's watch the market work. Let's let the technology evolve. Let's make choices that make sense.

I will be voting against this bill. I think it's going to pass—and I will thank you for the 20 or 30 grand you give me if you pass this bill—but it shouldn't be like that. That's not why we were elected. That's not an energy policy that will reduce any emissions. In the regions this will be the weekender car, the hobby car or the spare car; it won't be the main car. The people in the regions who buy one will be treating it as such.

I heard Senator O'Sullivan, another car nut on this side, talking about the towing capability of vehicles. We watched an episode where they towed a boat across the United States. It got to the point where they had to put a diesel generator in the boat to charge the car at the 100 stops it made across America.

These things will get there, but let's not rush. I go back to Senator Smith again. It's like the UK. We were talking about offshore wind. We are in this rush for offshore wind—'Let's get this offshore wind because the UK can do it.' The UK has depths in the channel of about 40 metres. The depth on our shelf is about 400 metres or more. Floating wind technology will come, but it is not commercially viable yet. Let's not rush.

Someone else spoke about the cost of green energy, what we're doing and how we do it. Let's face it, at the moment most of the energy for electric cars comes from coal. Prices will have changed, so I'm not breaching any confidentiality. I was working on a hydrogen project at the port of Newcastle. If we wanted to have green hydrogen produced at that time, it was $9 a kilo from renewable clean energy. That's the market telling us that. If I wanted grey hydrogen, it was $2.90 to $3.30. It's not a mystical cloud-cuckoo-land where unicorns fly around and we have wonderful times and can say that something is cheaper. When you have to buy it, at the moment it is not cheaper. We're rushing towards a goal without looking at the consequences.

Even though this bill will benefit me, who is in this place taking taxpayers' funds, earning a good wage, it should not be supported. I've demonstrated why this bill is wrong and why we should not be supporting it.


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