Independent senator Rex Patrick has taken a swipe at the federal government for its “absolute failure” on electric vehicles and says the prime minister, Scott Morrison, has broken a promise to make progress on their adoption.
Patrick, who was a member of the Senate inquiry investigating how best to support the rollout of EVs in Australia, said when the committee had made its recommendations in 2019 Morrison had promised to act.
“The prime minister promised us a national EV strategy to ‘ensure the transition to new vehicle technology and infrastructure is carefully planned and managed’. We all felt like we’d made a difference, the PM was on board.
“It is now 1 April 2021. So where are we at?”
Patrick was speaking at a meeting of electric vehicle engineers, local government officials and car manufacturers on Thursday morning in Adelaide.
“It being April Fools’ Day, I was going to stand up and say I will be speaking on behalf of the federal government, then have a minute’s silence,” he said. “Unfortunately there are many around who are in denial of electric vehicles, putting every argument you can think of – you know, it’s going to ruin your weekend.
“Well at the federal level, outside a couple of trial EVs for the Comcar fleet, there’s not much to report. There’s definitely no national EV strategy.”
The federal Labor party announced on Tuesday that if elected it would introduce an exemption to the import tariff of EVs worth less than $77,565 and exempt them from the fringe benefits tax.
Behyad Jafari, chair of the Electric Vehicle Council, said Labor’s policy would lower the cost of EVs across the country, but not in Victoria, where a new EV road tax would add $5,175 to the cost.
“That’s based on the average costs that the government have themselves said, so it may increase if they decide to increase the 2.5c per kilometre charge,” he said.
Jafari said that in the face of federal inaction, state and territory governments could do much more, especially as momentum is picking up in other jurisdictions.
The UK has said it would end the sale of petrol vehicles by 2030 and US president Joe Biden has promised a massive infrastructure spend and larger tax breaks to EV owners to ensure a faster transition that promise to unleash a “green tidal wave”.
“The role of government isn’t to sit around and be excited by what might happen. It’s to do something,” Jafari said. “States need to look at stamp duty and the charges they apply to EV owners, then remove them.
“The other thing they can do, that the federal government has refused to do, is implement their own fuel efficiency standard. Based on legal advice we’ve provided to the states, they can introduce a vehicle emissions standard if the federal government does not.
“The other thing they should get legal advice on is whether they can ban petrol vehicle sales. That’s what places like California do. They say: ‘We won’t let you register a new petrol or diesel vehicle made after a certain day.’ ”
However, Jafari said catching up to the rest of the world will not be easy as no state or territory government has a good framework for helping to support people making the switch to electric.
“The rather mischievous thing we’re seeing now is people saying these targets we’re setting are 10 years from now, so we’re not going to do anything about it until then,” he said.
“You can’t sit on your hands and say in 10 years’ time we’re going to ban petrol vehicles. You have to be doing the work to prepare for it now.”