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Electric Vehicles Tax

28 October 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The lively debate has begun. I am bitterly disappointed to see that it appears the government have cobbled together the numbers to put this tax on electric vehicles. It is really disappointing that the climate denialism that seems to have infected the Liberal Party over in Canberra—and we have seen evidence of that over the last few weeks with the dud of a climate policy that the Prime Minister is going to be prosecuting in the lead-up to the next election—has now infected the Liberal Party in South Australia. It makes us one of the few jurisdictions in the world to be putting a tax on electric vehicles at a time of climate crisis. It is a disgrace.

Make no mistake, the battleground is clearly drawn, the battle lines are clearly drawn for the next election, and the choice of voters will be clear. The choice of voters will be very clear because the Liberal Party is the party that is putting a tax on electric vehicles and adding a disincentive to people who want to do the right thing by our planet during this period of climate crisis. Some of the crossbenchers, it appears, are going to be supporting them and they need to think very carefully about that.

It is not enough to say, 'Let's have an inquiry once we have put this tax in place.' You do not act now and inquire later; the time to have the inquiry is before you support the legislation. This really is the wrong track for South Australia and I think a very alarming development. I should say the Greens have been against this from the outset. We have been opposed to this legislation on the basis that it really undermines our efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is a missed opportunity to bolster electric vehicles in South Australia by removing their roadblocks to car purchasers. That is why the Greens have always been on the public record opposing this tax.

In other parts of the world, this is not controversial. Electric vehicles are seen as part of the future and they receive public support to encourage consumer purchases. They are not sabotaged by the government of the day. Last time I spoke in this chamber about electric vehicles, I stated that taxing electric vehicle drivers for not burning petrol is like taxing non-smokers for not smoking. It is laughable. It is an example of failed leadership from this Marshall Liberal government.

That remains true whether you are going to be a taxing electric vehicles in 2022 or in 2027. That remains true, even with a $3,000 one-off payment that would be made available to just 6,000 motorists. It is not enough to make what is a harmful bill only less harmful. It is not enough for some on the crossbench to just try to sugar-coat the government's bitter pill here; they need to spit it out and reject it entirely.

At a time when we face a gathering climate crisis, a time when transport emissions are our most rapidly growing emissions—in fact, they are almost 25 per cent of emissions—we should be using this opportunity to make it easy for people to do the right thing. We should be trying to make it as affordable as possible for people to purchase electric vehicles.

It is not just me saying this, it is not just the Greens saying this. Let's look at what governments around the world are doing. Let's consider what governments around the world are doing. The UK government will be banning the sale of petrol cars by 2030. In the ACT, the Greens-Labor government is offering electric vehicle buyers free registrations and $15,000 loans. In Norway, the electric vehicle users are rewarded for their environmentally beneficial decisions through no registration charges, no parking fees, no road tolls and the use of free bus lanes. So they get rewards for doing the right thing.

In New Hampshire there is strong investment in highly accessible 24/7 charging stations that make it as affordable as possible and convenient as possible to drive an electric vehicle. The New South Wales government has committed $171 million for new electric vehicle charging infrastructure and $33 million to help transition the government's passenger fleet. That is the Liberals over in New South Wales.

We know from the Australia Institute that almost three in four SA residents believe that electric vehicles are good for the environment, and seven in 10 SA residents support reducing the cost of electric vehicles through subsidies and stamp duty waivers, and so do manufacturers. In late August, after the state government announced it was postponing, not scrapping, the electric vehicle tax, 12 manufacturers, industry associations and policy and research groups published an open letter on Monday calling on the state government to scrap its stamp duty for electric vehicles.

Among these signatories was Mitsubishi Motors Australia, whose director of marketing and operations, Rob Nazzari, said at the time that it was important to get things right from the start. 'We remain concerned about the impact of the proposed tax on our customers,' he said. Seven in 10 SA residents, according to that same Australia Institute poll, said they would be less likely to purchase an electric vehicle, because of an electric vehicle tax.

Seven out of 10 said they would be less likely to purchase an electric vehicle, because of this Liberal government's new tax. It is outrageous that the government are introducing such a disincentive into the market at this time of climate crisis. What on earth are they thinking? They are on the wrong track. Why is the Marshall government not listening?

This flawed Victorian approach—its reckless, highly unfair tax on electric vehicles, on people who are just trying to do the right thing—has been opposed by 25 organisations, including global auto manufacturers Volkswagen and Hyundai, and policy experts the Electric Vehicle Council have called it 'the worst electric vehicle policy in the world'. This is the policy that the Liberals are going to be taking to the next state election. This is the policy that the Liberal Party are taking to the next state election, and I urge the crossbench not to get in the car with them. Think very carefully about what you are doing, members of the crossbench.

The worst electric vehicle policy in the world does not deserve to be pushed back; it deserves to be scrapped, taken off the road for good. Mr Lucas said that we need an electric vehicle tax to help pay for road maintenance and upgrades. Well, that is a furphy, with respect to the honourable member. Richie Merzian from the Australia Institute has pointed out that fuel excise taxes do not directly pay for road construction or repair. He says:

The fuel excise does not pay for roads. It stopped doing that in the fifties.

We pay for roads like how we pay for hospitals, defence and schools: it comes out of the consolidated funds. Consolidated revenue that comes from GST, income tax, a whole variety of sources, which electric vehicle drivers already contribute to.

If the Hon. Rob Lucas needs some suggestions for how he could fund roads rather than taxing electric vehicles, the Greens are happy to come up with some ideas. Instead of penalising those who are choosing to reduce their carbon footprint by investing in electric vehicles, perhaps the state government could take steps to make electric vehicles more accessible to more people.

Electric vehicles are no longer seen as expensive or out of reach of ordinary people. There is a growing awareness of the much lower running costs, but this trend, this growth in the industry, must continue, not just in the short term but indefinitely and well into the future. If we are going to see that trend continue, we need a government who are committed to playing their part in reducing emissions, and that means reducing emissions from road vehicles. That is why putting a tax on electric vehicles is such a disastrous thing.

Where is the consideration of things like interest-free loans? Where is the waiving of stamp duty? Imagine if instead of putting a tax on electric vehicles we were talking about how South Australia could play a role in manufacturing electric vehicles here in our state. This is a missed opportunity. It is a missed opportunity and it is a dark day for South Australia when, in the middle of a climate crisis, we have a government going to the next election putting a tax on electric vehicles. They are on the wrong track and they need to change course very, very quickly.