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Electric Vehicle Levy Amendment Repeal Bill

1 December 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I rise to speak in support of repealing the Motor Vehicle (Electric Vehicle Levy) Amendment Act 2021. It is no surprise to anybody in this chamber that the Greens were very disappointed when the electric vehicle levy legislation was passed in this place last year. At that time, I reflected on what an embarrassing moment that was for our parliament and indeed for our state, as the Liberal Party, with the support of the SA-Best political party, set to trash our reputation as a clean, green state, set to trash what had been a reputation built over many years across all sides of politics in terms of working together to take climate action.

What we saw was, I think, a really embarrassing blemish on that proud record, where South Australia joined Victoria in becoming one of the only states in the country to have a tax being placed on electric vehicles, one that was actually going to disincentivise people from using electric vehicles during this time of climate crisis.

At that time, the Greens indicated that we would oppose these changes, this tax, tooth and nail. We took that commitment to the election and we welcomed, of course, the Labor Party campaigning strongly on this issue at the election as well. I am excited to now be returned to the parliament and to be in a position to make good on that commitment.

Electric vehicles are the way of the future. They have been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing the costs for households. In this time of climate crisis and a cost-of-living crisis, having a tax on electric vehicles is absurd. Just last year, the RAA survey of South Australian drivers found that 78 per cent of people would consider purchasing an electric car. However, in this state we have a tax that dissuades electric vehicle ownership, and we have seen a real failure, I think, of government to look at what can be done to incentivise electric vehicles.

Australia, and indeed South Australia, has been lagging behind the world in the uptake of electric vehicles. The list of other jurisdictions that have set a date on the end of petrol vehicles continues to grow. China, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan and the UK have all made commitments to eliminate internal combustion engine vehicles. Here in South Australia, where we have a rich source of renewable energy, we are unfortunately not seizing the opportunity to use that energy to power our vehicles.

When the electric vehicle levy was being discussed in this place last year, I spoke of the need to remove roadblocks to purchasing these vehicles. While uptake of non-combustible engine vehicles is increasing, it is vital for us to do what we can to motivate the move towards a future without petrol cars. The Greens-Labor government in the ACT are moving to waive stamp duty, providing two years' free registration and $15,000 no interest loans for people who purchase electric vehicles. These are the actions of a government that has foresight and a real commitment to taking action on climate change.

Last year, I introduced a motion in this place calling on the then Marshall government to support electric vehicles in South Australia by offering real incentives to increase the uptake of these rather than following the flawed approach that was taken by the government in Victoria. I echo the sentiments of that call of last year and now call on the new Malinauskas government to provide these incentives. I really hope that, following on from its decision to axe the Liberals' tax on electric vehicles, the new government will consider incentives in their next budget, look at things like waiving stamp duty and look at rebate programs for electric vehicles so that we can really ramp up their use in South Australia.

Even electric vehicle manufacturers and automotive bodies have publicly renounced the idea of a road user charge. At the time, Hyundai described it as a 'disappointing development'. Community expectation is that we move towards electric vehicles and, when this is matched by the views and actions of car manufacturers, there really is no excuse for us to continue with an EV tax.

I must say, one of the big failures of both of the major political parties in this parliament over many years has been the failure to really invest in a manufacturing strategy that considers electric vehicles. We could have led the world when it came to manufacturing electric vehicles, but unfortunately the previous Rann government, when it gave significant subsidies to the car industry in South Australia, never had the foresight to look at investment in electric vehicles, and the Abbott government made the appallingly short-sighted decision to axe subsidies for the automotive industry in South Australia.

I had a bill before parliament when I was in the federal parliament that would have actually reallocated the subsidies that were on the table at a federal level to support innovation and encourage electric vehicles in South Australia so that the automotive industry could have really started to manufacture EVs in SA. We could have led the world in electric vehicle manufacturing. Sadly, I could not get either of the two major political parties to support that bill, but the Greens here in this place, and indeed in Canberra, continue to advocate for electric vehicle manufacturing in states like South Australia and Victoria where we have the skills and experience and we could put those to use.

I also want to reflect on some of the positive innovations of the new government with respect to electric vehicles. I commend the announcement by the Malinauskas government that the Department for Transport are working on a business case for transitioning Adelaide's bus and train network to zero-emission vehicles. That is a really welcome innovation. Electric public transport is one of the keys to low emissions and we need that going forward.

We need to ensure that people who travel by car can also afford to buy electric vehicles without having to pay additional levies or taxes. Just last week, we saw a move by the federal government to make it cheaper to buy EVs. The Greens supported that bill in Canberra, with amendments to phase out plug-in hybrid vehicles and prioritise electric vehicles for the federal government fleet. These are really welcome developments in the move to an electrified transport system.

Electric vehicles are becoming more affordable, they are better for our planet, and they are the way of the future. We support axing the Liberals' EV tax, and we call on the government to go further in its next budget to provide real incentives so that we can speed up our state's transition to EVs. Let's be a real leader in that space. I think with the right political vision we can make that happen.