Categories: Policy

EV drivers lodge High Court challenge to Victoria’s electric road tax

Published by
Giles Parkinson

Two electric vehicles drivers have lodged a legal challenge in the High Court against Victoria’s controversial electric vehicle tax, saying the state government lacks the constitutional power and should be more focused on getting dirty cars off the road.

The case was filed on Thursday by legal firm Equity Generation Lawyers on behalf of the two drivers, father and nurse manager (and EV Youtuber) Chris Vanderstock, and mother and engineering consultant Kathleen Davies.

Victoria is the only state in Australia – and the world – to introduce a road user tax that applies to electric vehicles only. Even though such a tax seems inevitable over the long term as petrol and diesel car numbers decline, it is seen as a bad idea in a country with so little EV uptake.

The tax has caused outrage among EV owners, who have been obliged to send through photos or other proof of their odometer readings, and have been threatened with registration cancellations if they threatened to do so.

Critics say the costs involved in compliance will likely offset the revenue raised from the tax, which charges 2.5c a kilometre for full battery electric cars, and 2c a kilometre for plug in hybrids. Mild hybrids such as the Prius and Camry are exempt, even though many studies say these type of vehicles are the most responsible for a fall in petrol excise duties.

“It’s the worst tax in the world,” Vanderstock told The Driven. “It’s poorly timed and poorly implemented. Instead of taxing clean technologies, the Victorian Government should be concentrating on getting dirty cars off the road.”

Vanderstock says he bought his electric vehicle, the MG ZS EV – the lowest cost new EV on the Australian market at a price of around $40,000 before on-road costs, last December, and uses it for his daily commute.

“Electric vehicles are cleaner and improve health and climate outcomes for everybody. Why is the Victorian Government taxing electric vehicles when they have a demonstrable health benefit?”.

Davies, who owns a BMW i3 plug in hybrid and has been driving electric vehicles since 2012, said EVs were becoming more affordable, but the tax is a backward step.

Plug in hybrids are hit twice because they pay excise on those occasions they do burn fuel, and the 2c a km road tax as well.

“Victoria’s electric vehicle tax is fundamentally flawed and impractical. It punishes electric vehicle drivers and discourages the urgent need to decarbonise,” she said in a statement.

The two plaintiffs will argue that the state of Victoria lacks the consitutional power to levy the tax. It may be months before a first hearing is held, and possibly a year before any decision is made.

“It’s bad for Victorians, it’s bad for the climate and we will argue that it is unconstitutional,” said Jack McLean, the lawyer for the drivers.

“It discourages everyday Australians from switching to lower emission vehicles, prolonging our dependence on polluting oil.”

Vanderstock and Davies have launched a crowd-funding campaign to help pay the legal costs. You can find it here.

“I want to see this tax gone, it’s putting up a barrier to adoption,” Vanderstock said.

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