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Monday, 23 November 2020 11:02

Reversal of roles: Labor wants EV tax, Lib MP Zimmerman opposes it

Reversal of roles: Labor wants EV tax, Lib MP Zimmerman opposes it Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

In what seems to be a rather strange reversal of roles, the Labor Government in Victoria has announced a tax on electric cars and hybrid plug-in vehicles from July 2021 while a Federal Liberal MP, Trent Zimmerman, has penned an op-ed castigating both Victoria and South Australia for their plans to tax EVs.

Labor will thus not be able to avoid the comment that its policies are all over the place, given that its last federal leader, Bill Shorten, went to the 2019 election with a policy that offered a 50% rebate on EVs.

In South Australia, too, Labor (and the Greens) have said they oppose the tax which has been proposed by Steven Marshall's Liberal Government, which means that there may be difficulty in getting the necessary legislation through.

[Full disclosure: The writer has been driving an EV since mid-August. However, he would not be in favour of a tax on technology that helps curb global warming even if he was not using it.]

But in Victoria, the Liberal opposition is unlikely to oppose a measure that is generally seen as one that is proposed by right-wing parties. iTWire called the office of Victorian opposition leader Michael O'Brien to ascertain whether he backs the tax or not, but could only leave a message as nobody was there to attend to the phone.

Zimmerman's article, headlined "Tax on electric vehicles in South Australia and Victoria would slam brakes on sales", called the tax proposals by both states "counterintuitive and premature".

"Our system of taxes and charges is designed to serve a range of purposes," wrote Zimmerman, the MP for North Sydney. "In this case there are contradictory objectives.

"On the one hand, road charges and fuel excises exist in part as a pseudo user-pays levy for the cost of our road network.

"On the other, tax policies are often designed to change behaviour – to act as either a positive financial encouragement or, conversely and more frequently, a disincentive for a particular course of action. Taxes and charges on electric vehicles must surely be considered in that second category."

As a participant in comedian Dan Ilic's podcast A Rational Fear put it, excise was levied on cigarettes in order to dissuade people from buying them and a tax on EVs would achieve a similar objective. And, this individual pointed out, the irony was that, in view of the warming of the planet, the buying of EVs should, instead, be encouraged.

Electric cars make up about 0.2% of annual vehicle sales. And as Zimmerman pointed out, in South Australia, EVs make up about 0.1% of cars on the road.

The MP pointed to a recent report by Ernst and Young that did away with "the myth that EVs are a net hit to the Australian economy because drivers don’t pay current fuel excises".

Said Zimmerman: "Instead, the report found that each EV provides a $8763 net benefit to the economy over a 10-year life span and, when accounting for the loss of fuel excise revenue, directly contributes more to government revenue per vehicle than petrol or diesel-based vehicles.

"There are significant economic benefits EVs deliver in meeting emission-reduction goals as well as improving air and noise pollution in our cities. Our goal of zero net emissions cannot be met without major changes in the transport sector."

Try telling that to Victorian Treasurer Tim Pallas who appears to have only dollar signs circulating in his head.

To me, this looks like the state's Premier Daniel Andrews, wants people to drive with one foot on the brake and one on the accelerator. There has been no mention by Pallas of the extent of pollution caused by petrol and diesel fumes in the city and state and how much would be saved through the drop in respiratory illnesses when those fumes are reduced.

Melbourne is known as a bad place for asthmatics and automobile fumes are a big contributor to that.

But in the end, politicians can only compute in dollars, no matter whether it helps the people or not. Of course, as is the case with the Federal Government, I have no doubt that the Victorian Government will have no issue in finding funds to support moves that benefit politicians. The people? Phooey.

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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