Senate debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022


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

9:25 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury) Share this | | Hansard source

The opposition will not be supporting this bill. The coalition's opposition to this bill is not about electric vehicles; it is about, instead, financial responsibility. It is about the sustainability of the federal budget. The independent Parliamentary Budget Office has said this bill will cost billions of dollars over the next decade. It will cost $200 million in the next four years alone.

The coalition does not oppose the increasing role of electric vehicles in our transport sector, but this bill fails to demonstrate value for Australian taxpayers, and supporting electric vehicles does not make us any less committed to responsible financial stewardship. What is not clear is what this bill will deliver for emissions reduction. The government cannot say what it will deliver to the EV market.

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries recently released data showing that the sales of pure battery EVs represented the highest market share ever recorded. We expect this trend to continue as it has in comparable advanced economies around the world. With demand increasing, it's not clear that this legislation will deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers. That certainly wasn't the clear evidence the Senate Economics Legislation Committee heard during its inquiry into this legislation. It's worth noting that the Institute of Public Accountants said that this measure:

… will have a negligible impact on reducing Australia's carbon emission from the transport sector.

They went on to say:

… there are other measures which would have a far greater short-term benefit to the environment than this measure.

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, said:

… given its fiscal cost, unequal benefit and uncertainty about the electric car market and the best policy to transition Australia—

the policy—

will deliver the subsidy to a rather narrow class of employee beneficiaries and provides the largest benefit to the highest income earners.

It's also worth noting that, in evidence to the Senate committee, UnitingCare, a large fleet user, had this to say:

As it is currently modelled, the bill, we're not certain it would necessarily change anything.

Further, Treasury and the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water's evidence to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee shows the impact of this policy on emissions reduction has not been quantified. This is not a tax reform, as it was erroneously labelled by the federal Treasurer. It is simply more structural spending with little or no economic return.

This is typical of what we saw in the budget earlier this month: more baked-in spending for less benefit. There are more sensible alternatives to these quick, knee-jerk tax changes that have been prepared without consultation, as this particular initiative has. The government could invest in practical measures to drive EV infrastructure investment and to deliver real cost-of-living relief for many more Australians. This is the kind of infrastructure that Australia does need. Instead, the government is spending $2.2 billion on Premier Dan Andrews' pet project, the Suburban Rail Loop. The Victorian Auditor-General has said that Premier Andrews' Labor government:

… did not demonstrate the economic rationale for the entire project, and they have told us that they have no plans to do so.

The coalition believes that this is not a powerful demonstration of quality spending of Australian taxpayers' money. In government, by contrast, the coalition's Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy was part of our plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Photo of James McGrathJames McGrath (Queensland, Liberal National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Smith, it being 9.30 you are interrupted. The Senate stands adjourned until 9 am tomorrow morning.

Senate adjourned at 21 : 30