Labor sparks debate about electric cars

    Labor Leader Bill Shorten has laid out a plan to introduce Australia’s first national electric vehicles (EV) policy.

    It comes in response to Australia lagging behind its competitor countries in EV uptake and vehicle-fuel efficiency.

    In fact, Australia has ten-times lower EV take-up than the global average, Mr Shorten says, and risks “being left behind”.

    Labor’s policy

    If elected, Labor’s multi-point policy would include the following, according to Infrastructure Magazine.

    A national target of 50 per cent of new car sales being EVs by 2030
    Mr Shorten wants to drive the switch to EVs, reducing their cost, creating thousands of jobs and cutting pollution.

    A government target of 50 per cent of new leases of passenger vehicles being EVs by 2025
    Mr Shorten says this target would send a strong signal to global industry about the expectations for cost-competitive EVs in Australia.

    Growing private EV fleets
    Labor says it would allow businesses an upfront tax deduction to buy EVs for business purposes.

    Regulatory reforms and COAG agenda
    Mr Shorten says he would establish a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agenda for EVs to improve coordination of EV take-up and related infrastructure planning.

    Using standards to lower emissions
    Labor would also work with industry to introduce vehicle-emissions standards. Australia is now one of the only developed nations without such standards.

    Low emission transport strategy
    Labor says it would also develop a low-emission transport strategy to inform future policy development across transport more broadly, including maritime, aviation, rail and heavy vehicles. Transport emissions make up almost 20 per cent of Australia’s emissions and are a fast-growing source of pollution.

    Peak industry bodies respond

    Peak industry bodies broadly welcomed Labor’s plans, albeit it with some caveats.

    Australian Logistics Council (ALC) CEO Kirk Coningham said: “ALC is particularly encouraged by Labor’s plan to boost EV charging capacity in the national road network.

    “Overcoming ‘range anxiety’ is an essential part of delivering swifter EV uptake by freight logistics operators. The commitment to work with COAG to promote national consistency in charging infrastructure is most welcome.”

    However, he also warned that the government’s policy “must be worked through carefully with industry if it is to succeed”.

    Roads Australia (RA) President David Stuart-Watt also welcomed the policy announcement. But he cautioned that EV uptake must happen in tandem with “root and branch” reform of road funding.

    “EV technology is evolving quickly,” he said. “In a supportive political environment, there is no reason why we cannot reach this goal [of 50 per cent of all car sales by 2030].

    “The big upside, of course, will be a significant reduction in vehicle emissions. But on the downside, government fuel excise revenue will take a massive hit.

    “A change so significant will require a bipartisan approach across government and involve input from industry, communities and road users.”

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