Address to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Eastern Creek, NSW

Good for emissions.  Good for Families. Good for Business: The Government’s National EV Strategy

We meet today firmly in the lands of the Darug people. As we celebrate their elders past, present and emerging we should also acknowledge some fundamental facts.

The Darug people were participants in the first ever act of reconciliation in our nation, just near here on the other side of Prospect Hill, in what we now call Pemulwuy.

Darug women sought a meeting with Reverend Samuel Marsden to bring peace and better relationships between their people and settlers.

We have to acknowledge why they were seeking peace.

Because on these lands around us waged a war, the Sydney Frontier wars and the female elders wanted it to end.

Just as the female elders of the Darug nation reached out to Marsden with a message of reconciliation in 1805, almost 220 years later the elders of Australia’s First Nations peoples have reached out to all of us with the Uluṟu Statement from the Heart.

Later this year we will have the opportunity for the most important act of reconciliation our nation has ever undertaken.

There is, understandably, much noise around this.

But at its core, this is a simple proposition.

Firstly, that there should be recognition of our First Nations people in our Constitution.

And secondly, within that constitution should be an opportunity for indigenous people to advise their government on matters that impact them.

I believe our country will take this opportunity for reconciliation, and this opportunity to build a mechanism for better living standards through real consultation.

And I thank business and corporate leaders who are engaging so proactively and constructively in this important national conversation.

I appreciate the invitation to be with you today, particularly as we meet here in Western Sydney, close to my electorate, indeed close to my house and my community.

Last time I spoke at an ACCI event, it was in Canberra just after we had passed the Government’s Climate Change Act through the Parliament.

I mentioned then that this was important, not only because it was the first time in more than a decade that the country had a legislated overarching framework for dealing with the most important challenge of our time.

But also that by legislating the Government’s emissions reductions targets we have sent an important message to investors in renewable energy right around the world - Australia now has an ambitious and importantly, stable policy environment in which to invest.

But I also made the point in Canberra that in many ways, passing the Climate Act was just the beginning.

Targets are easier set than met.

After passing the Act, it was incumbent on us to progress the implementation agenda at pace.

To get the levers to achieve real emissions reductions working.

And we’ve certainly done that.

We’ve been progressing our Rewiring the Nation agenda, which builds the transmission network so vital to enabling new energy generation, with funding agreements settled with New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania and negotiations with other jurisdictions well advanced.

We’ve passed through the Parliament our Electric Vehicle Tax Cut, which has played no small role in seeing EV sales jump from two per cent of total new car sales when we came to office to close to seven per cent in the first quarter of this year.

And, importantly of course, we passed our Safeguard reforms through the Parliament.

Actually, we had to move this event to today because, when it was first scheduled, I was caught up in rather intense negotiations with the crossbench to ensure its passage.

I apologise for the inconvenience caused by that, but I hope you agree it was worth it.

Worth it, because we won’t reduce our emissions as a country unless we have a stable policy framework to get them down from our largest industrial emitters, and that’s exactly what our Safeguard reforms provide.

And earlier today of course, Catherine King and I have released the first ever National Electric Vehicle strategy.

So while it was inconvenient to move the date of our last event, it does mean that we gather today at a great time to discuss the policy we released this morning.

And it’s the EV strategy I want to talk to you about for the rest of my remarks today.

It’s also appropriate that we meet here at Eastern Creek.  Not just because it’s a motor sports venue, but because we are nestled in the heart of Western Sydney.

As a lifelong resident of Western Sydney, I know just how important cars are for living life here in and places just like it around Australia.

So I want to focus on why facilitating a greater uptake of no emissions vehicles is important not just for reducing emissions but also for improving choice, cost of living and convenience for households and businesses across Australia’s suburbs and regions.

Last September we opened consultation on the Strategy, and what it needed to include.

And the message to the Government from that consultation was very clear: Australia needs fuel efficiency standards.

Not having fuel efficiency standards means Australians are waiting longer than they should for the EVs they order.

It means they don’t have the access to the range of choices of affordable efficient vehicles that people in other countries have.

It means that Australians are driving cars that are much more expensive to run than efficient EVs.

And it means that Australia’s emissions from our transport sector are much higher than they otherwise would be.

That’s why this morning we confirmed Australia will finally introduce a fuel efficiency standard.

Alongside Russia, we are one of the only advanced economies without one – 85 per cent of cars sold globally are covered by such a standard.

And while we don’t have fuel efficiency standards in place, we will be the international dumping ground for more polluting, more expensive-to-run cars. 

With a standard in place, manufacturers have incentives to sell vehicles with low or no emissions, and to send cars with the latest emission reducing-technology.

They will be able to choose the most appropriate mix to meet market demand AND their fleet average target, giving them a clear pathway to plan their vehicle import mix.

The standard will only apply to new vehicles sold – existing vehicles on the road or in the market won’t be impacted.

Cutting emissions from the transport sector is vital for reducing emissions in Australia.

Transport emissions represent close to one fifth of Australia’s emissions, and absent action, transport will actually be the largest source of emissions by 2030.

The lack of standards has had real impacts on the emissions of our cars. Our passenger cars emit 40 per cent more C02 on average than in Europe, 20 per cent more than in the United States and 15 per cent more than in New Zealand.

As important as the environmental imperative for acting on standards is, its not the only reason.

In fact, even if there was no climate imperative for action, it would be a good cost of living relief measure introduce fuel efficiency standards.

On average, a petrol car consumes around 10 litres per 100 km and costs around $2,400 to fuel each year.

The average EV?

It consumes around $400 worth of electricity per year, and they are extremely efficient.

EVs don’t produce heat or noise: they convert more than 77 per cent of the electrical energy from the grid to power at the wheel.

So a switch to an EV would save around $2000, or more than 80 per cent, per car.

If you’re a family with two cars – that’s $4000.

Now the argument people put out there is that electric vehicles are too expensive and out of reach of most low- and middle-income families.

Here’s the thing.  I agree.

But here’s the other thing: that is partly because we don’t have fuel efficiency standards.

The lack of standards means that manufacturers are under no obligation to send affordable EV models to Australia.

People who argue against fuel efficiency standards because EVs are more expensive are missing the point: it is their policy inertia which is making EVs more expensive than they need to be.

And this is not just about EVs.

Fuel efficiency standards encourage the importation of more fuel-efficient vehicles, not just EVs, meaning people who buy internal combustion cars also benefit.

It’s estimated that the fuel efficiency standards introduced in the US this week will save motorists $900USD each year - $1300 Australian dollars.

Making electric vehicles more accessible will also include the creation of a second-hand electric vehicle market, which is in its nascency at the moment.

Because the best way to save money at the petrol bowser is to avoid it altogether.

Ultimately, this is all about choice.

Australians are missing out on choice that consumers in other countries are being given.

Consumers including businesses.

ACCI members who run fleets, big or small, also deserve access to greater choices.

At an event last year, I asked a driver for a delivery company that had purchased small EV trucks how he enjoyed the experience.

He told me it had made his job a lot more enjoyable to drive a quiet, easy to drive truck.

And so I am confident getting these policy settings right will help all consumers, private and business, who want to reduce their emissions, reduce their running costs and have vehicles that are a pleasure to drive.

As important as standards are, I know they aren’t the only policy we need.

That’s why today, I am pleased to announce $70 million in funding for charging infrastructure grants, delivered through ARENA.

Everyone knows where to find a petrol station when they need one – they should know there’s an EV charger nearby when they need that too.

This funding will be available to businesses, local governments and councils and state and territory and organisations to apply for innovative projects which will improve infrastructure in their area.

The brief is open – improve access to charging infrastructure.

This might include proposals to target apartment block residents and high-density areas, with low access to off-street parking.

Or remote or regional communities and improving their user experience.

Applications open today and more information is available on the ARENA website.

Friends –

For far too long, Australia lacked the leadership and direction we need on electric vehicles.

And as a result, the national conversation was focused on the problems.

Fear campaigns and baseless political attacks dominating the headlines instead of the facts.

Ending the weekend and taking utes off the road –

Rather than the truth, cheaper to run and cleaner vehicles.

We are determined to provide leadership in a way which brings Australians together and with us on the journey. 

Because all Australians deserve the benefits of more fuel efficient and electric vehicles – not just those who can currently afford them.

I’m proud to be sharing these critical steps with you today.