What We Need From Federal Government Part 2 – EV Summit 2022

What We Need From Federal Government Part 2 – EV Summit 2022

by Katie

Speaker 1:

So I’m pleased to introduce our next speakers. We have Green’s deputy leader, Senator Mehreen Faruqi, the President of the Australian Local Government Association, Counselor Linda Scott, and also CEO of Climateworks Centre, Anna Skarbek. We’re continuing with the theme of what we’d like to see at that federal level. I’d like to invite Senator Faruqi to kick us off. As deputy leader of the Greens, what do you think is needed from the federal government to accelerate this transition to electric vehicles? And please feel free to take the podium.

Mehreen Faruqi:

I will. I do have a few things to say, so I’ll go and stand up there on the podium.

                Good afternoon, everyone. I acknowledge the sovereign owners of the land that we’re gathered on, the Nanowel people, and pay my respects to elders past, present, and emerging. No matter where we are in this country, we are on stolen land. Sovereignty was never seated. This is, always was, and always will be Aboriginal land.

                I think everyone knows the road we are traveling on, and where we are going to get to eventually. The question is, does Australia want to be in the slow lane or the fast lane? I listen very closely today to the Minister, and I welcome that he’s committing to drive us a little bit faster and further down the road, but it seems to me that the government is going to keep us idling instead of accelerating towards our electric future. I know that we can go much, much faster if the Commonwealth chooses to do so.

                I want to outline four key areas of policy that the Greens believe are necessary for us to switch lanes and to drive faster, to join the electric vehicle revolution. But first, I want to say a few things about the election and the Parliament. It’s clear that there is a great hunger from the voters for climate action, and a clean energy future. The Greens, and much of the crossbench took stronger climate and energy policies to the election than the two old parties. Our vote went up, Labor and Liberal’s vote went backwards. The Parliament should be a climate action Parliament. It should be a Parliament that electrifies the nation. The numbers are there, in the lower house and in the Senate. The only thing holding back greater action is the level of ambition from Labor. So we all have a job to do, to convince Labor to be willing to go faster and do much, much more, quicker.

                So our view is clear, and we took that to the election. We need policies to push out old, dirty, and obsolete vehicles, and policies to bring in clean, better, more efficient electric vehicles. We need the infrastructure to power up Australia’s new electric vehicles, and also our manufacturing industry. I’ll take these areas one by one. The United States, China, Japan, and Europe have had mandatory vehicle emission standards for decades. We’ve been having this conversation in Australia for decades as well, but we still don’t have those standards. We don’t need more reviews or more consultations to decide whether we want ambitious mandatory emission standards. It shouldn’t be a question of if we do this, but how we do this, and how we do this right now. The government is about to remove its fuel excise discount, and we are in a cost of living crisis, with high fuel costs driven by our dependence on the rest of the world for fuel security.

                Surely there is no better time than now to be introducing pollution standards that will save people money. Surely it makes sense to depend on the sun, not the ongoing extraction of climate-destroying, planet-killing fossil fuels. So the Greens want to see vehicle fuel efficiency standards, or CO2 emission standards, starting with 105 grams per kilometer, ratcheting down to zero by 2030, and a ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, to bring us in line with leading countries like the United Kingdom. We would invest $1.2 billion to support manufacturers of electric vehicles and their components, building the Australian EV manufacturing industry. As an engineer, I’ve been trained to solve problems, and the prospect of remaking manufacturing in Australia while simultaneously addressing the climate crisis really is exhilarating for me. This manufacturing renaissance must be just, it must be ethical and sustainable, with decent jobs for workers.

                We will need a much more intensive and extensive network of charging than what the government has currently committed to. We want to see $2 billion invested in publicly-owned EV fast charging networks. The Greens want to see a $10,000 subsidy on every first electric vehicle, decreasing over time as the take up of these vehicles increases. We want low-cost finance provided by the government to remove the cost barriers, and to ensure equity, which is a big part of what we want to do. These measures really aren’t controversial in the rest of the world, and they shouldn’t be here either. These policies implemented together really would turbocharge Australia towards an electric vehicles take off, just as other countries have done. It would cost a tiny fraction of the government’s $224 billion tax cut for Australia’s richest, which should be invested in people and the planet. So the Greens really want to work with you to ensure that the government does shift gears, and takes on a much more ambitious electric vehicle agenda in the months and years to come. I really look forward to working with all of you to make that happen. Thank you.

Speaker 1:

Thank you, Senator. Linda, we heard from Chief Minister Barr earlier that local governments really do have a big role to play in this transition as well, from deploying infrastructure to transitioning their own fleets, to helping communities transition. What are local governments doing at the moment, and what sort of support are you looking for from the federal government?

Linda Scott:

Thanks for the great question. I’d like to begin, too, by acknowledging that we meet on the land of the Nanowel people, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present. I’d also like to actually acknowledge and credit Andrew Barr. In addition to his great advocacy for the work of local governments, he’s also the reason I own and now drive an electric vehicle. We had a recent discussion about it. So it’s very exciting to know that he’s a champion for the industry literally, and he’s able to increase the uptake more than that 2% that we’re all working towards together. I want to acknowledge that there has been great leadership, in particular from the announcements today from Minister Bowen, and as local governments we really welcome that. It’s my job acknowledging that I’m a Labor counselor to represent the nation’s 537 local governments. As you can imagine, every political stripe in the nation, but all very united in our acknowledgment that all these major transitions, and in particular the one we’re speaking about today, the energy transition, needs to have a very place-based focus.

                So for local governments, first and foremost from the Commonwealth, we need recognition that local governments are going to be critical partners in this transition, and without local governments playing a lead role in creating those place-based solutions, the transition will not be possible. The second thing local governments need from the Commonwealth, to again, the chief minister’s point, is funding. We support and run and maintain 70% of the nation’s roads. In New South Wales, my home state, it’s as high as 90%. So for all of you with a vested interest in making sure that your roads aren’t covered in potholes, there does need to be some funding support for local governments to continue to maintain our road network. And of course, in the face of climate change, where we are seeing more damage to all our assets, including roads, that is going to be a really critical step.

                And finally, I think just simply having a Commonwealth government that is showing leadership to drive this transition, excuse the pun, is so crucial. For so many years now, local governments have been providing local leadership in very different ways across the nation. In the local governments, for example, surrounding my own in the city of Sydney, they have set up their own charging structures to ensure that residents can make the transition. So many local governments, particularly in regional areas, have been working very hard to incentivize their communities to make the transition through the way that they, for example, charge for their parking permits, or the way that they permit street parking, or the way that we provide benefits for our public spaces generally. So local governments have been doing this leadership in local ways differently across the nation, but having a national goal to lock in behind, and then incentivize our communities in all those different ways to make that transition, is really the critical thing. So leadership, funding, and recognition of our important status as a partner in implementing this transition, are the three things we need, and we are really hopeful that they’re going to be forthcoming as part of the strategy that the ministers announced today.

Speaker 1:

And Anna at Climateworks Centre has released a report, I think just this week, looking at policies to realize Australia’s electric vehicle potential. Oh, there we go. Fuel efficiency standards, it’s what we’re all chatting about right now. That was one of many policies that you identified. What else did you canvas in that report?

 Anna Skarbek:

Yes. Thanks Audrey. Indeed, Exhibit A, published this week for this summit, and it outlines a six step approach to a national EV strategy, and supply is step one of that. So fuel efficiency standards, as we’ve heard today, is an excellent start. It’s actually step one-A, and in one-B, part of supply includes the second hand import market. We’ve heard today about the need for a single harmonized set of policies. There are a lot of checks and procedures and constraints on importing secondhand cars. That can be improved, that is squarely within the remit of government, federal and state, but working together, which has been the promise that we’ve heard today. So do not delay on that, because those two measures are very important for supply. Step two is targets to show the ambition, and these are powerful symbolically to state the future ambition, but they also are a promise of continued further action, and set guidance as we’ve seen from markets, which also can inform consumer awareness and the actions of many other layers of government.

                We heard about a lot about choice today. Minister Bond spoke about choice. And the important choice to remember when we’re thinking about what ambition to set a target at, is that the choice that’s driving a lot of this is that we have chosen to fully decarbonize our world to save our planet from increasing global warming. And so that choice, which we’ve all made through the Paris Agreement, is to limit global warming to well under two degrees, and strive for 1.5. The 1.5 degree limit is the one that the major financial institutions globally have now aligned to. So in this report, Climateworks has presented 1.5 and two degree alignment targets. What that means when you cascade down to electric vehicles, the two degree aligned target is at the 50% new sales level by 2030, but 1.5 degree aligned is 76%. We know that the Paris Agreement requires a ratchet, and we know that all of Australia’s major banks have committed to the international net zero banking alliance, which aims for 1.5 alignment.

                We also know that that is the difference between the Great Barrier Reef recovering from coral bleaching on average in a decade, or not. At two degrees of warming, on average coral, bleaching occurs eight or nine years in 10. At two degrees of warming, on average, Australia would have millennial droughts, deep drought years, eight or nine years in 10. But at one and a half degrees of warming, it’s more like 4, 5, 6, maybe seven, depending on what you’re modeling. That is a time for an ecosystem to recover, for regional communities to recover. So it’s, for us, undoubtedly obvious that the data is leaning us all towards 1.5 degree alignment, and that’s where the banks and institutions have taken it as well. So that is where the Paris Agreement ratchet will take the required national commitments. So set the target for 76% around that new sales of electric vehicles by 2030, that’s the 1.5 degrees aligned target.

                What then? Stimulate demand. Supply is the first criteria, but that doesn’t mean that demand support stops. So there’s a lot of work to do in rebalancing the tax exemptions that we’ve talked about today. Utes are popular today because they get FBT exemptions. We’re seeing state governments use tax revenue for subsidies, and there is an opportunity to rebalance a lot of that. So continuing the demand support is really important, and that includes fleet procurement. We heard from the New South Wales Minister, there is a lot of power that governments and corporates can do to set targets aligned with those 1.5 degree aligned targets. Many corporates now have net zero targets. So increasing the awareness and accountability of those, and converting that into fleet procurement commitment, and allowing that bulk purchasing power to drive demand is a really important goal.

                Fourth is infrastructure. For a smooth transition, there is a lot to do here. I’m also really excited about it, because it’s squarely within the remit of governments. So we’ve heard a lot about charging, that is one of half a dozen measures. The key theme here about planning for the infrastructure, we’ve talked about targets, the theme that drives this mindset is back casting. We’ve heard today about the S-curve of technology adoption, and there’s a lot of discussion about getting us from two to 10, and then up that curve. But when you’re thinking about infrastructure, what matters is, what does the top of the curve look like? Our net zero commitment means we are committed to fully decarbonizing transport. Now, we’ve all talked here, we know that means. Every car’s going to be electric. Well, until last year, Aemo’s ISP grid planning scenarios did not include analysis of full electrification of cars or homes or industry.

                It now does, but there is a lot of work to do for Australia’s information architecture to include and improve the analyses of what does our world look like, our electricity grid look like, down to the substation level, under multiple scenarios of 100% decarbonized transport. So when you then plan your infrastructure for that, obviously, charging infrastructure we’ve talked about, impacts local planning and rules. Importantly, it also impacts construction. National construction code was mentioned today. There is an opportunity for all governments to act on in seven day’s time. The Building Ministers meeting is occurring on the 26th of August. We have spent a decade advocating for the minimum energy efficiency standards to lift from six star to seven star, and that is before the Building Ministers meeting in seven days from now. It’s great, it’s late, but the default seven star definition, this is for all new homes, is a provision in relation to electric vehicles for 25% readiness. So that is that the wiring is put in, that 25% of an apartment block, for example, could have EV charging.

                We encourage every government attending the Building Ministers meeting next week, federal and state, to accept the recommendations of ours and others, that that 25% be reset to 100. You can do that in seven day’s time. If that’s failed at the collective level, states can do it themselves to go above the minimum, and then we’re back in patchwork land, big moment missed. We heard the New South Wales treasurer say there’s $10 million of taxpayer funding in New South Wales going to retrofitting apartments to add charging. How many more millions will be added for the difference between 25% and 100% for every new building after 2022, if we’re going to have to retrofit the other 75% because we have a national commitment to fully decarbonize? There is, in fact, a state commitment to fully decarbonize as well. So thinking joined-,up government net zero commitments across all layers of our economy and all sectors.

Speaker 1:

And one other thing that I noticed in the report, that it really stresses that we need to prioritize a fair EV transition. So I noticed that you talk about targeting financial support to low-income individuals and families, also ensuring that renters have the same access to some of that charging infrastructure. So keen to hear your thoughts on what the federal government can do to ensure that this is a fair transition.

Mehreen Faruqi:

Thank you very much, Anna, for that report. I think it’s an excellent piece of work, I had a read of it last night. But I think equity, which isn’t talked about too much, is really crucial for making this transformation. We know at the moment, the vast majority of EVs belong to men, high-income earners, and to make sure that when we move from 2% to 100% over the next some years, that it is distributed and people on low and middle income also have the capacity and the opportunity to get EVs. A few things that I mentioned, which is subsidies and rebates, I think are really, really crucial, and the federal government should come in. It also goes to manufacturing EVs here, and our policy is basically if people buy EVs manufactured in Australia, then they can get a bigger subsidy. So that’s encouraging the industry here as well.

                I think supply is a big part of it, because the more models we have, we can get cheaper models in. Also, charging stations and where they are put. I think Minister Barr mentioned earlier, shouldn’t be in electorates where people want to win votes, but it has to be done everywhere, and especially in regional areas. It’s a big issue of equity in regional areas. And lastly, EV of course is part of the puzzle, but public transport and making public transport available and affordable for everyone, and also active transport like cycling and working is also a big part of the puzzle, not just in terms of equity, but also us moving to a world which is zero carbon.

Linda Scott:

So on that, I want to call out Steve Murphy, who’s the National Secretary of the Metal Workers Union. He’ll be speaking this afternoon. There’s been a lot of focus today, I think, on fairness and consumers, but not a lot of focus on the transition that’s needed within the workforce in Australia, but critically even to make that very specific to electric vehicles, the transition that we’re going to need in the skills to ensure that we are able to manufacture, and look after, and maintain all these kinds of vehicles for the future. We are, as a local government sector, really quite interested, again, in place-based solutions to a lot of these challenges. So to take an example that we’ve undertaken in a different domain, the Sydney councils have come together. We take all the glass that we receive in our recycling bins. We’ve sought to try to set up a new manufacturing hub in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, of course an area that also needs to undertake a very significant workforce transition.

                And then the local governments have made a commitment to buy that produced material back, in the form of road base or footpath or cycleway base. So we are creating a circular economy, and at the same time ensuring that the workforce in a region that needs to make a transition is able to have new or very similar occupations that allow them to utilize their skills. We see that there is a capacity to create these other place-based solutions to create this energy transition, and also to foster the workforce that we need, and particularly focusing on those areas where the workforce needs to have opportunities to make that transition. I’m looking forward with Steve and others to putting forward some of these ideas at the federal government’s upcoming skills and job summit. What we are really trying to highlight here as local governments, is that we can provide the solutions to so many of the problems that we have at our policy level, but it requires all levels of government working together, and it requires respect for the local government leadership that is bringing together all different kinds of policy to create solutions on the ground.

                Unlike Andrew Barr, I hope this is respectful, I mean it respectfully. Unlike Andrew Barr, I’m not a veteran of Australia’s Federation, but I do as ALGA’s President have the rather unique opportunity to attend most of the intergovernmental forum. So whether it’s National Cabinet, the Treasurers meetings, the Transport Ministers meetings, the energy, I attend most of them. It is quite a unique perspective to be able to see all these different forums, and the overlap and the discussions that are happening. It is going to be a really critical time to get those settings right, so that the nation can better work together. I’m very hopeful, having seen the changes that the Albanese government has already made, and the review that is underway, of course, by Prime Minister and Cabinet, that we will get those governance settings right to make these transitions work, because let’s be frank, without it this won’t occur.

                Whether it be in electric vehicles or in emissions transitions more generally, Australian local governments collect 4% of the nation’s tax take, our untied funding from the Commonwealth under the Keating government was at 1% of Commonwealth’s taxation revenue. It’s now down to nearly half that. We have, of course, local governments in our regions that are so impacted by climate disasters, they are effectively insolvent, and having no local government in an area is not going to produce a locally-led recovery when we can’t even afford to procure the truck or employ the workers to go and pick up people’s rubbish. So we do need some fundamental thinking about the funding structures. As you can imagine, representing 537 local governments, we don’t take a view about road taxes or other more specific dilemmas for the Commonwealth and the states, but more broadly, without some better equitable funding distribution, those local solutions that you all need to stimulate the significant transition to more electric vehicles, and indeed 100%, simply will not occur.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much. Unfortunately, that’s all we’re going to have time for now. We’re running a little bit over time, so please join me in thanking all of our speakers.


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