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Question: Ministerial Vehicles

6 May 2021

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:16): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question on the topic of ministerial cars to the Treasurer.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: It's been reported that the state government will be replacing their ageing Holdens in the government's ministerial fleet with luxury Genesis G80 cars worth just shy of $85,000. That's despite previously indicating that the government would be looking to purchase electric vehicles and, following the news of the purchase of the Genesis G80 cars, the Treasurer saying that he expected the entire Public Service to shift towards electric vehicles in the 'very near future' and that 'we are certainly committed to the whole fleet, including the ministerial fleet, moving in that direction'.

The government state that they knocked back electric vehicle options at this time because they were deemed to be 'too expensive'. However, there are electric cars available in Australia for far less than $85,000. My question to the minister is: what is the justification for purchasing luxury non-electric vehicles to replace older cars in the government's ministerial fleet, particularly when they cost about $25,000 more than the cars they are replacing? Is the government's opposition to electric vehicles in their own fleet connected with their electric car tax?

 

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (15:17): The answer to the last part of the question is no. With great respect to the media coverage of this particular story, I want to place some facts on the table. The first point is the supposed claim that these luxury vehicles that replace the no longer being produced Holdens are $25,000 more expensive. That's a comparison of a 2020 cost with, as I understand it, the list price for the Caprice back in 2017.

I am not sure whether the Hon. Mr Simms has availed himself of the purchase of a car, either in a private capacity or under the new arrangements that are available to him as a member of parliament, but—surprise, surprise—car costs have actually increased in the last four years. Should the Caprice have still been produced in 2020-21 it would have been significantly more expensive than the $61,000 cost, or whatever it was, that was being quoted in that media article.

I think any fair person, and I am sure the Hon. Mr Simms would judge himself to be a fair person, wouldn't be comparing the cost of a new, supposedly luxury vehicle in 2021 with what might have been the cost of a vehicle back in 2017. An apples with apples comparison would have been much better.

The decision is not a recent decision in relation to the Genesis. When we first came to government we took a decision to reduce the number of ministerial cars and the number of ministerial drivers. We saved just under $400,000 a year from what we thought were the excessive number of cars and drivers that the former government had provided for themselves, but we had to go through the process of replacing the Holdens because they were no longer available. There is a requirement for the ministerial car to be available to transport other people within the car, in particular for the Premier and most ministers I guess as part of their daily routine or work patterns. That was the case with the former government, and it's the case with this government as well.

Some other jurisdictions, as I understand it, have looked at BMWs and others as alternatives to the Holden. As the Treasurer, I wasn't going to take a decision to provide a BMW to ministers as a replacement vehicle. We looked at a variety of vehicles. I think the article quotes the recommendations that eventually came to me after things like BMWs were ruled out. I think Skodas, Volkswagens and one or two others, together with the Genesis, were recommended.

They were all in and about that particular price range. The point I made to the media at the time was that the purchase price is not the key determinant of the cost of purchasing a vehicle, whether it be for members of parliament cars or whether it be for ministerial cars. The cost of fuel over the expected life of the vehicle, maintenance costs and the like are also factored in to a complex calculation. When that was done, the Genesis came out as being cost competitive, both with the former Caprice but also more cost competitive than the other models that were available.

They were also tested by the various drivers in the fleet in terms of usability and drivability for drivers. I do note that there are a small number of cars in the ministerial fleet that are provided to members who live in country electorates, which are more expensive again in terms of being, I think, Prados. I think the Hon. Mr Maher from the opposition might have a vehicle of that description as well. Former Minister Whetstone, and I think Minister van Holst Pellekaan, for example, have Prados, in terms of people who live in country electorates and have to do a lot of country driving in terms of the use of the vehicle, and they are more expensive again. They might be described as even more luxury vehicles perhaps, in terms of their fuel costs and the like as well.

That was the background to it. It certainly wasn't in relation to the electric vehicle tax. The government's position on the whole fleet, which is a much bigger number of car purchases and much more significant, is that the advice we have received from industry stakeholders is that by probably around about 2025-26 the purchase price of electric vehicles will be cost competitive with non-electric vehicles.

It will be at that stage, we believe, that not only large numbers of people in the private sector, but it will be clearly advantageous in the public sector for the government fleet to move completely to the electric vehicles. As that price becomes more competitive, the number of electric vehicles in the fleet will be able to increase in terms of its number.