Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022

Federation Chamber 7/09/2022

Mr KHALIL (Wills) (18:04): Real action on climate change—that’s what the Albanese Labor government’s all about. It is committed to delivering this by reducing taxes on electric vehicles. The Treasury Laws Amendment (Electric Car Discount) Bill 2022 is the first step in achieving this, by providing a fringe benefits tax exemption for eligible employer provided electric vehicles. Put simply, what this means is that, when an employer allows an electric vehicle to be used privately by an employee, it will no longer attract a fringe benefits tax. This will incentivise greater uptake of electric vehicles, which are rapidly becoming a more efficient and cheaper form of transport; it will reduce transport emissions, contributing to the government’s plan to reach net zero by 2050; and it will make electric cars more affordable for families and businesses across Australia who are currently locked out of the market due to very high costs.

This is really important as a reform for people and businesses across my electorate of Wills in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. My community, like many across Australia, are acutely aware of the existential threat posed by climate change. Every day, in many ways, they make decisions to reduce their own carbon footprint, whether that be through where they shop or source materials, how they power their homes or shops, or just how they travel from A to B. This tax exemption for electric vehicles will provide more sustainable options for so many more Australians, because as a government we know that Australians not only deserve choice but want it. They need it.

We’ve heard a whole lot of nonsense from the opposition, who seem to be living in the past—years in the past. Let me just run through a few examples. Scott Morrison, when he was Prime Minister, said electric vehicles would end the weekend. Remember that? They would end the weekend; it would be gone. He then pretended at the last election that he had said nothing like that, so suddenly he forgot that he had actually said that. He must have forgotten that video clips existed even in 2019 and that you will be recorded when you say something. He said:

It’s not going to tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot …

Just two weeks ago, the new Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in a sign that things really haven’t changed that much with the Liberal Party, said that no-one in the world is making an electric ute—no company. Well, it took fact checkers all of five seconds to determine that was wrong. She must have forgotten that Google exists in 2022. For the benefit of the deputy opposition leader, there are not just one, two or three but at least five electric utes being manufactured and sold overseas. That’s a fact. Then, when she was faced with this unavoidable fact, she said:

… even if they were it would be unaffordable.

Well, let’s be glad that the other side are no longer in power with that kind of misinformation and positioning.

Rather than just spreading misinformation and complaining, we are really taking action on climate change. This is what this government is about. With this bill, we will make it more affordable for Australian employers and workers to drive an electric vehicle if they choose to. In fact, a number of experts have said that people using electric utes for work gain added benefits. For example, the electric utes can be used as generators on worksites, charging up electrical tools. So, if you’re on the job, your electric ute actually helps you do your job. You can also use an electric vehicle to charge a laptop, so it’s not just the tools. If you want to put in an invoice, you can do that as well. There you go—just another example of why businesses might utilise them in high numbers if they were made affordable.

My question to the opposition is: why not give businesses and Australians the choice when it comes to choosing the vehicle they drive? For the so-called party of personal choice and responsibility, the Liberal Party are sure committed to making it harder for Australians to make their own choice when it comes to the car they drive.

The Albanese government, however, is committed to giving Australians greater choice by bringing down the costs of electric vehicle ownership. This exemption will apply to electric vehicles below the luxury car threshold—including battery, hydrogen fuel cell and plug-in hybrid electric cars—that are made available for use after 1 July 2022. In addition to this, the Albanese Labor government will remove import duties on electric and low-emission cars. These fees have been a significant—in fact, tremendous—barrier to the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia. This barrier has meant that just 1.5 per cent of cars sold here are electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles, compared to 17 per cent in the United Kingdom and—wait for it—85 per cent in Norway.

This not only represents a loss of opportunity in emissions reductions and lowering household costs around fuel; it also represents a lost opportunity in rebuilding Australia’s automotive and manufacturing industries. That is an issue that is so important in my electorate of Wills, in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, where thousands of workers and their families were left out of a job, out of job security, out of a living, with the closure of the Broadmeadows Ford factory and associated factories that fed into the automotive industry, including small and medium-sized engineering firms—innovative firms that made little parts of the cars that were being made in Australia. Some of you over there—some of the new MPs—might not remember this, but there was a Liberal Treasurer who dared the car companies to leave Australia. In fact, they basically shoved them out the door by removing support for the industry, yet the Liberal Party—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr KHALIL: That is a fact. That happened. I will take the interjection. The Treasurer at the time, Joe Hockey, dared them and pushed them out of the country and removed that support. Yet the Liberal Party continue to be the biggest opponents of Australian manufacturing. It is remarkable.

Unlike that lot, the Albanese government is getting to work and is committed to bring manufacturing back home by reducing taxes on electric vehicles. We will make them more affordable, encouraging their uptake and incentivising businesses to build them here in Australia. We will also establish a new Driving the Nation Fund, invest in highways and build a national electrical vehicle network. This will include a $39.9 million investment to delivering 117 fast charging stations on highways across Australia and up to 16 hydrogen refuelling stations on very busy freight routes between the capital cities, matching investments already made in states like Victoria.

All Australians are feeling the pressure at the petrol pump, particularly over the last few months with what we have seen happening overseas with the war in Ukraine and the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We cannot afford, as a government and as a nation, to be short-sighted in our policy responses to the rising costs of living. That short-sightedness by the previous government is how we have ended up in this situation, after nine long, tortuous years of a Liberal government that had no vision, no plan, no foresight and nothing on offer. They kicked everything into the long grass. That was their tactic: ‘I see nothing; I know nothing; I’m just going to kick it off into the long grass and hope somebody else takes care of it later.’ That is how we have ended up in this situation.

The Albanese Labor government will take the ambitious action needed to provide cleaner and more affordable options as our technology options improve. We will not allow Australia to be left behind as the rest of the world realises and takes advantage of the opportunities of investing in renewable energies. The opportunity to create hundreds of thousands of jobs, to unleash billions in investment, to reduce those cost-of-living pressures and to reduce household costs is before us now, and we are taking action to make it a reality. We will make electric vehicles more affordable, we will take real action on climate change and we will bring Australian manufacturing back home.