Public Accounts and Estimates Committee Report on the 2020–21 Budget Estimates

4 Aug 2021

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I rise to speak on the Public Accounts and Estimates Report on the 2020–21 Budget Estimates. This was the budget that introduced the EV tax into Victoria as outlined in the committee report on page 254. I think this was an initiative that really undermined a budget that otherwise I thought made some really good investments in housing and renewable energy, but this was—

A member interjected.

Mr HIBBINS: Well, as you would be aware, the Greens campaigned very strongly to see more investment in housing and more investment in renewable energy, particularly in that budget, and we welcome those investments. But it was undermined by the electric vehicle tax, and I reckon even the mob on the other side might agree on that—a tax on people trying to reduce their carbon emissions. It was not a tax on carbon emissions but a tax on clean air. During the hearings—I am a member of that committee—I had quite an interesting discussion with the Treasurer on the matter, and throughout that hearing it became very clear that the government’s reasonings for introducing this tax were simply wrong and seemed to be perpetuating falsehoods. The first one was of course the fact that the fuel excise that they seek to replace is actually a federal tax, and that money goes into general revenue; it is not hypothecated to roads funding. This link between fuel excise and roads funding was imaginary. It was a figment of the Treasurer’s imagination.

Similarly with the electric vehicle tax, that goes into general revenue, and as the Treasurer outlined very clearly, it is not hypothecated to roads funding. In fact that was not part of the bill that was introduced into Parliament. It goes into general revenue. We were told that on the one hand it would be helping pay for all these new roads, roads maintenance, investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, yet the Treasurer said, ‘We’re actually spending more on electric vehicles than we are raising from the EV tax’. So which one is it? Is it paying for all these things or is it not even enough to pay for the electric vehicle infrastructure? It was very clear as well that there was very little consultation with the sector itself in the lead-up to announcing the EV tax—next to none. And of course the government had to scramble to then engage with the industry after the backlash, which brought industry and environmentalists together in opposition to that tax, described as the world’s worst electric vehicle policy.

Since then, whilst this government rushed ahead and now we have got EV drivers getting their notices just months after the bill was passed to send in photos of their odometer with threats of suspension of their registration, we have seen New South Wales say, ‘We’re not going to go ahead with similar reform until we’ve got a significant amount of EVs on the road’. Similarly in New Zealand, which was pointed to by this government as an example of another jurisdiction, they have said the same thing: that they are not going to introduce a road user charge for EVs until there is significant uptake. They have gone even further with significant, significant incentives to support the uptake of EVs—around NZ$8000 off your EV—and they are paying for it by making polluting cars pay. They are making polluters pay, not the people who are seeking to buy a car that is good for the environment.

Since then we have seen the climate sector pledge, which is a step in the right direction, but it is clear from what is in that pledge that there is still a long way to go to reduce our carbon emissions from transport here in Victoria—the biggest-growing source of carbon emissions in Victoria, second only to coal and still growing. The government has outlined it wants 50 per cent of new car sales to be EVs by 2030, yet in other jurisdictions around the world they are putting an end to sales of the combustion engine, some by 2030 and some by 2025. They are putting in a trial for electric buses. If we look at New South Wales, they are racing ahead with the building of thousands of new electric buses, creating jobs along the way. It is good to see that there is some proposed mode shift to active transport, but that is going to mean a massive investment is needed in active transport, not the small amount that is currently in the budget.

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