Friday, November 13, 2020

Tax on electric cars produces anger

South Australia’s controversial new electric vehicle charge has been labelled “a big tax on not polluting” by policy analysts and the EV industry.

It comes as MG launches the lowest price electric vehicle on the market in Australia yet – a $40,000 SUV crossover – that is about $10,000 cheaper than its nearest rival, the Nissan Leaf.

Noah Schultz-Byard, South Australian director at the Australia Institute, said the decision in South Australia – the first in the nation to introduce such a charge – would only made it harder for people to go electric just as it was getting easier.

“Putting a tax on a car because it doesn’t produce any pollution is ridiculous. It’s like saying someone who gives up smoking no longer pays the tobacco excise, so they need to pay a penalty for having given up,” Schultz-Byard said.

“People can make arguments for or against, but now is not the time when the upfront cost of an EV is still higher than a petrol car. Right now the cost of batteries that go into electric vehicles has been dropping steadily and is expected to drop in the years to come.

“Slapping a tax on that will only raise the barrier back up. This might scare a lot of people away from buying an electric vehicle, which is the opposite of what we want.”

The move was announced in the state budget where treasurer Rob Lucas explained the decision by saying it would make road use more equal.

Lucas wouldn’t be drawn on the size of the charge but did say it was expected to raise $1m a year starting in July 2021 and that it would include both an upfront cost and an additional charge on distance travelled.

“Someone needs to pay for the road maintenance and upgrade, and it should be the people who are using the road,” Lucas said.

Dr Jake Whitehead, a research fellow with the University of Queensland, said this didn’t stack up as money generated from road taxes is split between state and federal governments.

Less than half this money is then spent on road transport projects, while the rest goes to general revenue.

“Basically, what they’re saying [to EV owners] is you should continue to pay stamp duty, registration and we’re going to throw in an extra tax. Basic economics is that you make the price higher, you decrease demand,” Whitehead said.

“What we’re seeing is that EVs are being a scapegoat for falling fuel excise taxes, when the excise declines are actually because of more hybrid and fuel-efficient cars being introduced.

“The expected outcome from my perspective, is that you’ll put a tax on EVs, that will be a disincentive [to buy] EVs, those buyers will then buy hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles and that will exacerbate the issue with fuel excise. That’ll only make the issue larger.”

Behyad Jafari, chair of the Electric Vehicle Council, said his worry is that South Australia will set a precedent that will lock in bad policy across the country.

“Automotive companies simply won’t bring EVs to our market,” Jafari said. “South Australia has one of the lowest uptakes of EVs in the world and to now become the world’s first countries to provide a net tax or net disincentive is the wrong move.”

Coal Joel ‘out of step’, blasts senior MP as Labor rift worsens

Federal Labor has descended into an all-out slanging match, with a senior frontbencher publicly blasting his colleague Joel Fitzgibbon as “out of step” with the party and the Australian people.

It follows Mr Fitzgibbon stepping down from the frontbench, saying the party was too focused on climate change and not enough on blue collar workers, following a heated shadow cabinet on Monday night.

Mr Fitzgibbon on Wednesday morning accused the Labor leadership of “overreach” on climate policy and warning against the party staying in “perpetual opposition”.

Labor frontbench quit, says party lost its way

Albo feeling leadership heat as Joel backs coal

Opposition attorney-general spokesman Mark Dreyfus played down leadership speculation and Anthony Albanese’s future, saying he had “zero fears” about it.

But he took aim at his former frontbench college for criticising the party’s climate policies. “Joel is out of step, he’s out of step with not only the Labor Party he’s out of step with thinking across Australia - in the regions, in the cities,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“I’m trying to say as clearly as I can that Joel’s thinking and the statements that he’s been making for many months now are out of step with what Labor has agreed on. “There’s a growing realisation that taking action on climate is the direction that not only Australia needs to go in but the rest of the world is moving on.

“Perhaps a catalyst for his departure was what I saw as a completely incorrect rejection by him of the importance of the election of Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris as President and Vice President elect of the United States.”

Mr Dreyfus would not comment on reports that he and Mr Fitzgibbon had a heated exchange at shadow cabinet, but denied there was any yelling.

Mr Fitzgibbon said he feared the party’s policy was “so ambitious” that it was not being embraced by the public. “You can’t give effect to climate change policy if you’re perpetually in opposition,” he said.

On Tuesday, after resigning from the frontbench, Mr Fitzgibbon said they could not win an election without winning central and north Queensland seats like Flynn and Herbert, adding that they had been “demonising” coal workers.

“The Labor Party has been spending too much time in recent years talking about climate change, which is an important issue, and not enough time talking about the needs of our traditional base,” he said.

Australia should cut emissions quickly and lead world in renewable energy, incoming chief scientist says

Chief non-scientist would be more apt

Australia’s incoming chief scientist wants the country to be a global renewable energy leader and “bold and ambitious” in rapidly cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Physicist Dr Cathy Foley, who will replace Dr Alan Finkel in January, told Guardian Australia she believed the Morrison government was serious about rapidly shifting the country to a low-emissions economy.

Foley, who is currently the chief scientist at CSIRO, will enter the role at a time when a global pandemic has pushed the importance of scientific advice to new heights.

But she will also be tasked with compiling and curating scientific evidence to guide a potential rapid shift away from fossil fuels to a low-emissions economy.

“Of course I want Australia to be a low-emissions economy, but I want us to be a world leader in renewable energy, such as hydrogen, and what I’m hearing from government is that they want the same thing,” she said.

“We need to move as quickly as we can using all the tools to lower emissions and be bold and ambitious in doing that.”

The Morrison government has so far refused to set a target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 – a goal now endorsed by key trading partners, including Japan and South Korea, as well as US president-elect Joe Biden.

The UN’s climate panel says the world’s greenhouse gas emissions need to reach net zero by 2050 to have a 66% chance of keeping global warming below 1.5C.

But when asked what advice she would give the government on the target, Foley said: “I’m not in the job yet and I have not done my own gathering of information. I’m not in a position to say I can assess the situation.

“But I can say [is] we know Australia is committed to reducing emissions and Australia is committed to delivering on its commitments of the Paris agreement and we are seeing the government recognising this.”

Finkel has advocated for increasing the amount of gas in Australia’s electricity grid to lower emissions and support renewables – a position he was forced to defend in August after climate scientists wrote an open letter saying it was at odds with the Paris climate agreement.

Foley said: “The people who signed that letter are eminent scientists coming from a scientific perspective, but they are not necessarily business people.

“The gas issue is complex. Alan’s position on gas is it will help reduce emissions more quickly and get more wind and solar more quickly. He is just providing the evidence from what he has garnered.”

She said her role would be to make sure the voices of environmental science were heard, but to also “bring them to the other parts of the argument to see why an outcome has landed where it has”. “I think pragmatic is not the right word. It’s about being a boundary spanner … that’s what’s tricky in the chief scientist role.”

Foley is a multi-award winning physicist specialising in the use of super-conductors to locate mineral deposits. She has worked at CSIRO for 36 years.

CSIRO’s chief executive, Larry Marshall, said her appointment was a “testament to Cathy’s personal scientific excellence”. Finkel said he was honoured to be followed “by such an esteemed person”.

Foley told Guardian Australia she had been asked to apply for the role but had not expected to get the job.

“The [science minister Karen Andrews] and the prime minister said they want to make sure there’s independent information that’s as unbiased as possible – gathering scientific information from wherever is needed on an issue or question and then give them frank and fearless advice to use to navigate the issue at hand.

“They may use the advice or not, but it’s important to realise the response to how they use it may require me to be pragmatic, but it’s the government of the day that makes the policy and the decisions.”

She said while science was “one small part of the big picture when a big decision has to be made”, Australia had closely followed expert advice to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic “and has had a good outcome”.

She acknowledged that misinformation on issues such as climate change science were a problem – where evidence and information could be cherry-picked – and said the country needed a campaign to help the public understand the scientific process.

But she also welcomed the steps being taken by social media platforms in flagging posts that contained misinformation.

“I think [social media] has played a major role in misinformation being easily accessible and getting a life of its own,” she said.

She hoped social media had now “gone through the wild teenage years” and was now “developing some maturity”.

'Unviable': La Trobe proposes cutting humanities and education courses

La Trobe University has proposed scrapping or reducing about a dozen disciplines in the arts and education, telling staff on Wednesday that it is no longer financially viable to teach these subjects.

The proposal comes as the university confronts a revenue downturn in the hundreds of millions of dollars due to the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing it to shed hundreds of positions.

Staff at La Trobe, who have also agreed to take a 10 per cent pay cut to avoid deeper job cuts, were told that unprofitable disciplines from the schools of humanities and education could not continue in their current state.

Those that face being discontinued include creative arts, Hindi, Indonesian and modern Greek studies. Planning and community development and philosophy would be scaled back.

The bachelor of arts would also be offered as a purely online degree at La Trobe's regional campuses, staff were told.

In the school of education – where La Trobe last month celebrated leaping 42 places to 62nd in the Times Higher Education World University rankings by subject – the bachelor of technology education faces being scrapped entirely, as would the master of applied linguistics and the master of teaching English to speakers of other languages.

The number of subjects offered in outdoor education would also be reduced.

The cuts to disciplines were described as horrifying and "the byproduct of a broken higher education system" by tertiary union leader Sarah Roberts.

Ms Roberts, the National Tertiary Education Union's Victorian assistant secretary, said: “It’s deeply horrifying that what we all imagined might come to pass as a result of the pandemic has now crystallised at La Trobe. That is, liberal arts courses are being cut because they don’t generate the revenue that more vocational courses do."

Ms Roberts called on the university to consult further with staff and the community "before going ahead with its radical proposal".

La Trobe University said in a statement that the schools of humanities and education had reviewed their course and subject portfolios and found a number that were financially unsustainable.

Some of the changes would also involve a loss of jobs, requiring further consultation with staff, the university said.

"For both schools, these are proposals only and potential impacts will depend on the outcomes of the consultation," it said.

"Any impacted courses and subjects will be taught out for existing students or suitable alternatives offered."

La Trobe University vice-chancellor John Dewar said the humanities disciplines in question have had "consistently low enrolments for the last few years and in the current circumstances the university can't afford to cross-subsidise them".

Disciplines being cut in the school of education were heavily enrolled in by international students, who are blocked from entering the country, Professor Dewar said.

"The context of course is COVID and the fact that like every other university we’re facing a significant downturn in revenue this year, next year and probably some time beyond that," he said.

The university forecasts a revenue shortfall in 2020 and 2021 of between $265 million and $335 million.

It is one of just a few Australian universities that signed up to the Jobs Protection Framework, a deal between universities and the National Tertiary Education Union in which staff accepted pay cuts on the condition the university would limit job cuts.

Universities Australia has projected the Australian higher education sector could lose $19 billion in the next three years due to the loss of fee-paying international students.

Professor Dewar said the changes to education disciplines would require about five involuntary redundancies, while any possible job losses in the humanities would go out to staff consultation.

The university’s decision to sign up to the Jobs Protection Framework had spared it from having to cut hundreds of jobs, he said.

“Involuntary redundancies are unavoidable at some point but we have done an amazing job of getting as far as we have without making a very many people involuntarily redundant.”




1 comment:

Paul said...

I assume from the gnashing of sustainable teeth that electric cars don't actually touch the roads, so don't contribute to the need for ongoing road building and maintenance?