Dump destructive push for a carbon tax on new cars

June 01, 2018

Conservatives leader Cory Bernardi has been proven right again, having pointed in the Senate last year to moves by the Coalition government to impose a carbon tax by stealth on Australians.

In his Senate speech last year, Senator Bernardi said as he moved amendments to protect cars from new emissions standards - a form of carbon tax:

"If they (the Coalition government) won't (support our amendments), it means their words are as hollow as the words they've said in the last five or six years. They are as hollow as the words the Labor Party said when they were in government: 'There will be no carbon tax in the government that I lead.'

'There will be no carbon tax on cars,' as the rhetorical flourish from Minister Frydenberg said."

An opinion piece in today's The Australian reinforces Senator Bernardi's concerns:

"Australia is on track to meet or exceed its 2020 and 2030 emissions reduction targets, just as the nation outperformed its first target under the Kyoto Protocol.

There is no good reason to inflict costly new vehicle emissions targets on new car buyers and the automotive industry.

On Wednesday The Australian revealed that an emissions target of 105g of carbon dioxide per kilometre, which only two of Australia’s top 20 cars come close to meeting, remains an option for the Turnbull government.

Cities Minister Paul Fletcher tried to dress up the dud policy as a win for motorists, arguing that “under a fuel efficiency standard, the average motorist in Australia could save up to $500 a year in fuel costs’’.

Such savings, however, would come with stiff upfront and ongoing costs many motorists cannot afford.

In January, Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg tipped an electric vehicle “revolution”, predicting there would be more than a million EVs on Australian roads by 2030, up from the present 4000. EVs, he said, would transform the transport sector “equivalent to what the iPhone did to the communications sector”.

Mr Frydenberg might be right in saying those ridiculing EVs now “will probably be the ones who are buying them in a decade’s time”. Much depends on technological advances.

There is no need, however, to force the issue by imposing a $2 billion compliance bill and red tape burden on carmakers and dealers, to be passed on to consumers in higher prices for domestic and business vehicles — a market highly sensitive to economic conditions and price hikes.

As Ben Packham wrote earlier in the year, electric car drivers pay $5000 to $10,000 more a year in all-up costs than drivers of equivalent petrol or diesel cars, ­according to the government’s own advisory firm on vehicle emissions.

The figures take account of purchase price, fuel or recharging costs, finance, registration and servicing over five years travelling 15,000km a year.

Australian Automotive Dealers Association chief executive David Blackhall is right when he says lifting the price of new cars would keep older, dirtier cars on the road, producing the direct opposite of the desired outcome.

The government should be alert to the folly of legislating for more stringent vehicle emissions standards by the fact the Greens are advocating them strongly.

Yesterday, Greens transport spokeswoman Janet Rice claimed a failure to impose the standards would show the government was “completely in the pockets of big business”.

To the contrary, ruling out such punitive legislation would show the government is putting the needs of families and small businesses first, especially those unable to pay for lower-emissions electric or hybrid vehicles.

In time, technology may make them a better option. Until then, the government should keep its hands out of motorists’ pockets and the market.

Unlike the Coalition, which is committed to the Paris target of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions on 2005 levels by 2030, Labor is wedded to a 45 per cent target. Almost certainly, consumers would face harsher measures under a Labor government."

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