Australia’s electric car plan in slow lane

Rebecca Gredley
(Australian Associated Press)

 

The wheels are turning slowly on Australia’s electric vehicle strategy as federal officials reveal they intended to finish it months ago.

The Morrison government first announced its promised strategy in February 2019 but quickly pumped the brakes.

It shifted gears during the election campaign to criticise Labor for setting a target of electric vehicles making up 50 per cent of all car sales by 2030.

Fewer than 7000 electric cars were sold in Australia in 2019.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison went so far as to claim Labor wanted to “end the weekend”, while his senior ministers argued the opposition would also steal people’s boats and trailers.

Department of Industry deputy secretary Jo Evans said the electric vehicle strategy was expected to be finished in June this year, but the coronavirus pandemic shifted priorities.

“We are still continuing to work on that,’ she told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday.

The department was given $400,000 in last year’s budget to come up with a plan for electric vehicle use in Australia.

Electric vehicles have since been bundled into the government’s future fuel’s package, which received $74.5 million in this year’s budget.

Senior government minister Simon Birmingham expects a consultation paper on the strategy to be released by the end of the year.

The department’s Kushla Munro said plenty of consultation had already occurred.

“There has been a number of re-prioritisations that had to happen within the department because of COVID-19,” she told senators.

“A number of public servants were seconded to a number of different areas. The work has continued as it can do, the discussion paper is not yet finalised.”

Light vehicles account for about 10 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicles are estimated to make up just 0.2 per cent of the total vehicle fleet in Australia.

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