The Committee Report has included discussion of the specific tax and
expenditure proposals put in submissions but makes no recommendations on them. Some
may accuse the Committee of a lack of ambition for not doing so, but, although
the Committee advises on these issues in the report, it was not in a position
to develop the comprehensive national strategy that is required. That is a task
for the national government, engaging with industry and the wider community.
This engagement will be fundamental to achieving a just and effective
transition to new forms of automotive and other transport propulsion.
The Committee's report provides a comprehensive account of the evidence
presented to it. That evidence demonstrates that the shift in the automotive
industry and the broader transport system to new forms of propulsion is part of
a global transition in which Australia has a role to play. The shift has the potential
not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also to create substantial
economic benefits for the nation. There are opportunities for the Australian
automotive industry in design, technology, components and systems, and new
manufacturing opportunities in the processing of lithium and other mineral
resources, batteries and hydrogen. It is a transition that will incorporate
electric vehicles, hybrids, and hydrogen fuelled vehicles. It is not just about
cars but includes buses, light commercial vehicles, trucks, long distance
vehicles and rail. There may, for instance, be early gains in emission
reduction and improving city amenity by converting our aging truck fleet to
batteries or hydrogen.
The report recommends that the Commonwealth Government take the lead in
developing a strategy for the introduction of electric vehicles. It urges the
Government to do what is currently not being done. That is, to take a
coordinated, integrated and national approach that will not only begin the
transition to electric vehicles but also initiate a manufacturing strategy to
realise the industry growth and job opportunities the transition can offer.
While the report rightly outlines a wide range of actions necessary for
the transition there are some basics we have to get right; the safety and
technical standards, for the vehicles themselves, buildings and in integrating
these new vehicles and supporting charging infrastructure with planning for the
grid. We have to ensure public and worker safety and build a skilled workforce.
It must be a just transition. An approach that merely subsidises the
purchases of people who are already well off is unfair. Investment by
Government should work to a national interest. Making significant commitments
on funding subsidies for EVs without getting the foundations right may make a
difference in the take up of EVs but will miss the bigger opportunities to
drive smarter, sustainable change and support a just transition in such a
There are manufacturing and value adding opportunities for Australia in
this transition. The Government could use own procurement to support it.
Research and development will be fundamental. Government must be ready to work
with the Australian automotive industry, whose skills and globally recognised expertise
could play a key role in building new growth opportunities. Sensible investment
in industry capabilities in this area will build support for the transition.
System-wide, energy-related transitions are hard work. The strategy for the
adoption and greater use of electric vehicles need to account for the driving
and purchasing decisions of every day Australian families. There are competing
technologies and systems in play, and even Tesla's Elon Musk has acknowledged –
in announcing layoffs recently –how difficult it is to get an EV supplied at a
mainstream price. There is no law of nature that can achieve price parity
between EVs and internal-combustion-engine vehicles. If it is to be done, it
will be done as a result of sustained scientific, engineering and technical
effort by skilled white-and-blue-collar workers.
That is the challenge we must meet and overcome – and that is genuine
Senator Kim Carr Senator
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