Federal Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman has called for a ban on new petrol and diesel car sales by the mid-2030s, and the adoption of stronger policies to make that happen including introducing financial incentives to buy electric vehicles (EVs) and dumping the luxury car tax.
Zimmerman is one of a small group of Liberal MPs who are at odds with their party’s stance on climate action. In 2019, he along with fellow Liberal MPs Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, Jason Falinski, Katie Allen, Angie Bell signed onto a crossbench-led climate action committee.
Now, Zimmerman has brought attention to the need for stronger policies on EVs if Australia is to address the transport-related emissions which account for 19% of the country’s total emissions.
In a speech to the House of Representatives on Monday, Zimmerman said that for Australia to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, a target being adopted by governments and corporations worldwide, “we need to adopt the goal of reaching close to 100 per cent electric or other low-emission vehicles in the new car market by the mid-2030s.”
Adopting such a goal would require phasing out of petrol and diesel car sales as is being undertaken in many jurisdictions overseas. Some recent examples are Japan by 2035, and the UK which has now brought its ban forward a third time to 2030, while Norway aims for 2025.
He says just waiting for car-makers, even though many are also vowing to only sell electric cars within the decade (Volvo being the latest example), will not suffice.
Zimmerman notes that Australia – which has no vehicle emissions regulations designed to reduce emissions – risks becoming a dumping ground for the world’s most fuel-hungry vehicles as car-makers shunt older models here and concentrate on markets with clear EV targets.
Australia has only about 30 electric vehicle models available on the local market because car-makers have been reticent in introducing more here without the certainty that comes with EV adoption policy.
“Adopting such an ambitious target would provide an important signal to the car industry and would give them the certainty they need about Australia’s intentions,” said Zimmerman.
To do this, Zimmerman is pushing for financial incentives for EV purchases, a strategy that has had great success overseas.
“Early and short-term subsidies can provide a kickstart to more rapid growth while market prices trend down through technological and production innovations,” said Zimmerman.
While some states have introduced mild incentives, such as reductions or waiving of stamp duty at the time of purchase, there needs to be more action at a federal level.
In addition, the Luxury Car Tax – which was introduced to protect a now non-existent auto manufacturing industry – should be abolished for low-emission vehicles (LEV), he says.
While the LEV threshold for this tax was raised in 2020, he says, “it is time we removed the luxury car tax entirely from low-emission vehicles,” and that more states should,” look towards measures like lower rego and stamp duty and even toll relief for electric vehicles.”
He took aim at the states of Victoria and South Australia which instead of supporting EV adoption are using them as an opportunity to shove through a road user tax despite concerns that this is a piecemeal approach to taxation and would effectively kill the burgeoning EV industry in Australia.
“What they should not do is follow the lead of the Victorian government in implementing new road charges on EVs while the market is so thin. The Victorian approach is a disaster for encouraging motorists to buy an electric vehicle.”
Zimmerman’s calls are a contrast to the messaging from Australia’s federal minister for energy, Angus Taylor, whose “future fuels” strategy (FFS) has been dubbed a “do-nothing strategy“. Zimmerman aligns more closely with NSW minister for energy and the environment Matt Kean, who is the first serving minister to use an electric vehicle (A Tesla Model 3) permanently as his ministerial car.
Taylor claimed in February that hybrids, which do not plug in and need petrol (though less of it) to run, represent better value for Australians on emissions than electric vehicles, but it has been shown that the calculations used in the strategy were fundamentally flawed.
While Zimmerman welcomed the strategy (which focuses largely on the roll-out of charging infrastructure), he says there is, “much more that can and should be done.”
The federal Comcar fleet is currently trialling two electric vehicles over a two year period.
Bridie Schmidt is associate editor for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.