Senate debates

Monday, 22 February 2021


Electric Vehicles; Consideration

5:19 pm

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

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

It was a very interesting response that was received from the Premier of Tasmania to our Senate resolution from last December which called upon Australian governments to support electric vehicles as a technology to reduce our carbon pollution; to take action to make them affordable and accessible to all Australians; and to not place unnecessary taxation barriers in the way of their uptake. Premier Gutwein's response was glowing about the need to be supporting the rollout of electric vehicles. He let us know that Tasmania has set an ambitious target to transition the Tasmanian government fleet to 100 per cent electric vehicles by 2030—take note, government, what a Liberal government in Australia has committed to do. They've committed to trialling zero-emission buses within the next two years, and they have committed other funding and support for infrastructure, including fast chargers, other chargers and a range of other technologies.

What they note in the letter—remember, this is the Tasmanian Liberal government—is that, although they welcome the Australian government's support for electric vehicles, further policy levers remain available to support uptake, including fuel efficiency standards, electric vehicle sales targets, electric vehicle purchase incentives, subsidising home charging installation and public awareness initiatives. Premier Gutwein continues:

I would encourage the Australian government to continue to support electric vehicle uptake and look forward to working with the Australian government on further actions to increase electric vehicle uptake within Tasmania and nationally.

Clearly this letter is saying what governments should and could be doing and what this government is not doing with its pathetic Future Fuels Strategy that was released last month, which basically has completely dropped the ball, leaving Australia in the very slow lane; in fact, it is broken down by the roadside when it comes to supporting electric vehicle uptake.

The Senate motion asked Australian governments to not place unnecessary taxation barriers in the way of electric vehicle uptake. In particular, this was a letter to state and territory premiers to ask them to not proceed down the path that the Victorian and South Australian governments are proceeding of imposing a tax on electric vehicles. That would mean it would be a disincentive for electric vehicle uptake. I'm very pleased to get this positive response from the Tasmanian government. I'm hoping this government will listen to it and realise that we need to be doing an awful lot more to support the rollout of electric vehicles to keep up with the rest of the world and even just to keep up with Tasmania. There are actions we can take as a federal parliament to let the state governments that are considering imposing taxes on electric vehicles know that it is a very unwise way to be going.

A private senator's bill, introduced by me, has been referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for consideration over the coming months, including some hearings at which it will be exploring the taxes that the states are proposing to impose on electric vehicles; how that's not the best way to go; and what we as a federal parliament could be doing to actually be discouraging the state governments from imposing those sorts of state taxes which would discourage the uptake of electric vehicles. I look forward to seeing the involvement of a range of senators across the parliament participating in the inquiry in the committee process on my private senator's bill and doing what we can to join with the rest of the world, and even keep up with Tasmania, and to really support the uptake and the use of electric vehicles across the country.

5:24 pm

Photo of Rex PatrickRex Patrick (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to take note as well in relation to item No. 3 on electric vehicles. We now have two letters tabled in response to the Senate resolution of 1 December on electric vehicles. I look forward to receiving the responses from the other states. These responses showcase the total and utter confusion caused by the lack of a national plan on electric vehicles. The Tasmanian Premier and I are both waiting in anticipation for the government's release of the national strategy for electric vehicles. Is the government prepared to share the date on which this will be released? In February two years ago, during his speech on climate solutions, the Prime Minister made it clear his government was working on a national vehicle strategy. Well, it must be a cracker of a strategy because we're still waiting. The Prime Minister said: 'The government is developing a national electric vehicle strategy to ensure the transition to new vehicle technology and infrastructure is carefully planned and managed.'

My advice is to stop planning and get engaged, because the transition is already happening and it is being led by the states and territories. There's a risk with this piecemeal approach, state by state, each with different policy settings, different taxes and different apprehensions with consumers and industry—all sorts of uncertainty as a big disincentive for electric vehicle uptake. As I said in my motion on 7 December last year, the government must provide national leadership on electric vehicles by delivering the national strategy it promised.

In the interim, whilst the nation waits for a national strategy, the government could demonstrate a modicum of leadership by dealing with the issue of which EV plug to use. Today we have at least four different plug types, creating confusion for car owners and industry alike. Why not make things simple and mandate a single plug to give Australians certainty? This is one tangible element that the Prime Minister's proposed back in 2019, when he said the government would investigate mandating a single electric vehicle plug to improve the consistency and interoperability of public charging. This would be at least one small step to resolving some ambiguity.

Senators, who would have thought that the world would break out into a pandemic, that there would be all sorts of terrible issues occurring right across the world, that here in Australia there would be lockdowns, border closures and all that sort of stuff? And now we get to the point, gladly, where we're seeing a vaccine rolled out. And we've seen all of that happen whilst the government has been unable to decide what sort of plug to use. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.