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Motion: Electric Vehicle Tax

25 August 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:

That this council—

  1. Notes the announcement from the NSW government that they will waive stamp duty and provide rebates on electric vehicles;
  2. Notes that Australian state governments were warned a road user tax on clean cars introduced without other support for the technology could discourage their uptake and impede greenhouse gas cuts;
  3. Further notes this advice was received before South Australia and Victoria announced plans to introduce a charge on driving electric vehicles;
  4. Recognises that the flawed Victorian approach to implementing a tax on electric vehicles has been described by 25 organisations, including global auto manufacturers Volkswagen and Hyundai and policy    experts the Electric Vehicle Council and The Australia Institute, as 'the worst electric vehicle policy in the world'; and
  5. 5. Calls on the Marshall Government to support electric vehicles in South Australia by instead offering real incentives to increase the uptake of electric vehicles to combat climate change.

Right now, governments around the world are seeing the benefits of making electric vehicles cheaper by encouraging their uptake. The UK government recently announced that it would be banning the sale of petrol cars by 2030—banning their sale—and the Greens Labor government in the ACT is even offering electric car buyers free registration and $15,000 loans to encourage uptake.

With transport emissions currently sitting at around 20 per cent to 25 per cent of total emissions in Australia, we need to do what we can to support electric vehicles and to create the jobs that would flow here in our state. Offering incentives to increase the uptake of electric vehicles is essential if we are serious about combating climate change.

That is why the Greens continue to oppose the Liberal government's electric vehicle tax. This is a tax that will make our state an international pariah when it comes to fighting climate change, and this is a tax that will expose our state to international condemnation and ridicule. The future of cars is electric mobility, alternative fuels and public transport and it is time for the state government to recognise that reality and to actually invest, not penalise people who are doing the right thing.

Investment in truly innovative car manufacturing in Australia would see a shift towards electric cars instead of paying companies to make less efficient six-cylinder petrol cars. When you consider that the electric and sustainable car industry is set to be worth $1,200 billion globally by 2027, proper government support could help Australia play a really key role and, in particular, obviously assist us in South Australia. Of course, the federal government are dragging their heels. We know this federal government is useless in virtually every regard, but South Australia needs to step up and position itself as a world leader.

South Australia should be showing some leadership here. We have huge skills and experience in our state manufacturing industries and we need to be looking at what we can do to harness them. That is why it is absolutely ludicrous that this government, in last month's budget, confirmed that it is going to be proceeding with this standalone tax on electric vehicles—a bill that is coming at a time of climate crisis when transport is the fastest growing source of emissions in South Australia and when South Australia and Australia are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to our uptake of electric vehicles.

What on earth are the Liberals thinking? What on earth is this Marshall government thinking when it comes to its absurd electric vehicle tax? Instead of penalising those who are trying to reduce their carbon footprint, the government should be taking steps to make electric vehicles more accessible to more people. Let's expand the use of electric vehicles in our community. EVs are no longer seen as an expensive vehicle that is out of the reach of most people, but to ensure that trend continues we need a government to actually show leadership and play their role in taking on the climate crisis.

There are lots of examples of what they could be doing here. We can look at what has happened interstate where there are interest-free loans of two years or free registration. These are the sorts of things that could be done to try to encourage the uptake of electric cars. Once you remove some of those obstacles, the running costs are significantly cheaper than diesel vehicles. A recent comparison of four ACT government vehicles—two EVs, two petrol—showed that the EVs saved about $1,800 per vehicle in running and maintenance costs over an 18-month period. That is significant.

Research from the Australia Institute back in 2019 showed that South Australians strongly support electric vehicles and they want governments at all levels to implement policies that encourage their use. That same report found that 70 per cent of people want the government to build a network of charging stations for electric cars, two-thirds want to see the luxury car tax removed from imported electric vehicles and more than half want to see the government offering loans for electric cars. When you consider that Tesla have indicated interest in building cars right here in South Australia, it is absurd that the government are putting up more barriers to increasing the uptake of electric vehicles.

In May of this year, the Victorian government passed legislation, which will be effective from 1 July 2021, which will require road users driving electric vehicles to pay 2.5¢ per kilometre driven. This equates to around $375 annually, based on the national average of 15,000 kilometres per year. These laws also place a cost on plug-in hybrid vehicle owners to pay 2¢ per kilometre driven. That equates to $300 for every 15,000 kilometres.

Owners of these vehicles will be required to submit vehicle odometer readings and face vehicle registration suspension for noncompliance. Hybrid cars that are not able to be charged externally are exempt from this tax. The Victorian government explained that, as EV owners do not pay the national fuel excise of 42.7¢ per litre, this is the way of that government recouping costs they claim are associated with road upkeep.

The question remains, why on earth is South Australia following the flawed Victorian approach to implementing a tax on electric vehicles such as this when 25 organisations, including global auto manufacturers Volkswagen and Hyundai and policy experts the Electric Vehicle Council and The Australia Institute, have called it the worst electric vehicle policy in the world? The worst electric vehicle policy in the world is being exported from Victoria and brought over to South Australia.

Prominent signatories of the open letter against the tax include Hyundai, Volkswagen, Uber, JET Charge, the Electric Vehicle Council, Solar Citizens, Environment Victoria, Doctors for the Environment Australia and The Australia Institute. Instead of looking to the absurd approach that has been taken in Victoria, why has the state Liberal government not considered the New South Wales approach, which properly supports the electric vehicle industry and delays the introduction of any EV tax until 2027? Taxing EV drivers for not burning petrol is like taxing non-smokers for not smoking. It is a laughable proposition. It is an example of failed leadership from this Marshall Liberal government.

Quite frankly, I think the community expects a level of inaction and incompetence in Canberra because we know we have a Prime Minister who loves to kiss pieces of coal and does not care about the climate crisis, but they expect better from the South Australian Liberal government. This really is an appalling lack of leadership. It is an irresponsible decision at a time when real action on climate change is essential. We need to shift our focus to 21st century technologies. We need to utilise manufacturing skills that exist in our state by building a world-leading electric car industry that will get our state economy back on track, so really it is time for the Liberals to change course.