The Australian Greens have thrown down the gauntlet ahead of the Batman by-election in Victoria, with an electric vehicle policy that would ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars in Australia by 2030.
The Greens have unveiled a suite of measures the party said would “kick-start” the EV revolution in Australia, where it has so far lagged embarrassingly behind other developed nations.
As well as shutting down the market for new ICE (internal combustion engine) cars, the Greens’ propose a four-point plan that would introduce light vehicle emissions standards by 2022, and remove import tariffs, GST and stamp and registration fees on zero emissions vehicles.
The policy measures, which would apply until 2022, would also introduce an EV sales requirement for manufacturers selling vehicles in Australia, and establish a $151 million fund to help fund the roll-out of public EV charging infrastructure.
The policy launch comes ahead of this weekend’s by-election for the inner Melbourne seat of Batman, which is being billed as a key battle in a long-running territory war between Labor and the Greens.
The Greens currently hold seven lower house electorates in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, as well as the federal seat of Melbourne, which is held by Adam Bandt.
A victory for Greens candidate Alex Bhathal would give the party its second lower house seat – although recent polls put Labor candidate Ged Kearney slightly ahead.
The Greens have fought the major parties hard on climate and renewable energy policies – both at a federal level, and in recent and upcoming state elections – in a bid to call out the distinct lack of policy ambition in the Coalition, and to shame the Labor party into meeting them somewhere much further than halfway.
Just last month, Victorian Greens Senator Janet Rice described the federal government’s vision of just one million EVs by 2040 as “pathetic,” and its policies as not even adequate to meet that low-ball target.
“At the moment, the Turnbull government is basically just letting Australia get left behind,” Rice told the Alternative Technology Association’s 2018 EV Expo in Port Melbourne.
“Energy minister Josh Frydenberg has just recently been talking really big on EVs, but his party is saying that they are going to make up 15 per cent of new vehicle sales by 2030, which is just pathetic.
“It’s absolutely pathetic – and it means that the benefits of the electric vehicle revolution just won’t be felt by the majority of Australians.”
And while the federal government will no doubt argue that the Greens’ proposed 2030 ban on new internal combustion engine cars is overly ambitious, similar targets being adopted by governments – and car manufacturers – around the globe suggest otherwise.
As the Greens note in their policy announcement, a target of no new fossil fuelled cars by 2030 would put Australia slightly behind Norway (2025) and on par with the Netherlands and India. France and the UK, meanwhile, have targeted zero new ICE cars by 2040.
And car makers are beginning to follow suit. Sweden’s Volvo announced in July last year that all cars it produced from 2019 onwards would be either hybrid electric or purely battery-powered, in what the company called a “historic end” to building models with only internal combustion engines.
Other car makers are expected to set similar targets, but in the meantime, are getting busy rolling out their own lines of electric cars, including most recently Jaguar Land Rover, with its well-hyped all-electric I-Pace SUV.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, the South Australian Labor government heads into the state election this weekend with a promise to waive stamp duty and five years’ worth of registration costs on new electric or zero-emission cars, if it is re-elected.
“The electric vehicle revolution is unstoppable and Australians should have the opportunity to embrace this global shift to electric vehicles, not get left behind,” said Senator Rice, in comments on Tuesday.
“Without action the big global car corporations will use Australia as their dumping ground for the most polluting cars as the rest of the world moves on.
“The Greens have a plan to drive the rapid phase-in of EVs, bringing more clean cars to the market and making them more affordable for all,” Rice said.
Adam Bandt, the Greens’ climate change and energy spokesperson, said the party’s plan was the “quantum leap” needed to cut emissions, meet Australia’s “paltry” Paris targets and “to stop people dying from air pollution.
“Without accelerating the uptake of electric vehicles, we’ll be stuck with dirty cars and smoggy cities,” Bandt said.
“We’ve seen how pollution in Asia is choking their cities. This plan is about making sure that Melbourne and Sydney don’t go down the same path.
“The Greens are showing the leadership and action that’s needed to drive reform. I urge the Labor party to indicate their support for this move, not rear-end it.”