Transcript - ABC News 24 TV - Afternoon Briefing with Greg Jennett

GREG JENNETT [HOST]: Catherine King, welcome, as always, back to Afternoon Briefing. So this vehicle emissions standard seems very ambitious from where we are now – a 61 per cent reduction for regular people’s cars from 2025. To understand the magnitude of it, though, how many countries sought comparable emissions cuts in similar periods – three or even, if you like, the full five years?

CATHERINE KING [MINISTER]: Well, basically, what we’re doing is bringing Australia into line with the US by 2028, and that’s really what the efficiency standard does, it brings us into line with the US by 2028. We are a bit behind, as you know. The two countries that don’t have emissions standards, the two advanced countries, we’re alongside Russia. And, really, what we want to try and do is make sure that we bring the most or manufacturers bring the most efficient vehicles they can to Australia.

So, whilst it’s ambitious, it’s ambitious for a reason because we want consumers to get those fuel savings as quickly as they can. We want to get emissions down. We want to get the benefits to consumers of doing that, and that’s really what this is about – bringing us in line with the US by 2028. There’s going to be a lot of noise about this. You’re going to get all sorts of claims about it, but, really, that’s what it boils down to.

GREG JENNETT: I’m sure that’s not the case. I’m sure some critics are only just warming to the theme right now. Now, government documents say, “Getting more fuel efficient vehicles is important, gives those who want to spend more upfront to save over time, options to do so.” Is that an admission that these cleaner imported new vehicles we’re talking about will involve more expense upfront?

CATHERINE KING: At the moment we don’t have choices. So, if you look at the vehicle ranges that are coming in, you know, this is across the vehicle range – it’s not just about electric vehicles; it’s about hybrids, it’s about getting more efficient diesel vehicles in, more efficient petrol vehicles as well. So because there is no incentive now for manufacturers to send us their most efficient vehicles, they go to markets where there are standards. That’s where they’ll go. So, really, this is about across the range of fleet that a manufacturer has, asking them to bring their most efficient vehicles here and providing, really, an incentive for them to do so.

So, really, it’s about the choices that people have. You’ll still be able to buy your favourite car. You’ll still be able to buy your favourite SUV. You’ll still be able to choose what’s right for your family and for the work that you’re doing. But what you’ll actually have is greater choice about more efficient vehicles.

GREG JENNETT: Yeah, on that point, a lot has been made about the disappearance – and that’s obviously hyperbole – disappearance of dual cab utes in this country. I’m not as interested in their complete disappearance as in the price effect as you bring this standard across. You know, in the case of the Ford F150, which [indistinct] across the entire Ford fleet. So, again, the F150 – again, to use the example cited in your documents – would sell for about a hundred thousand Australian dollars in the US. A fair proportion of that would be their EPA tail type standard, wouldn’t it? We’re going to see more of that here.

CATHERINE KING: So, what you’ll actually see [indistinct] the disadvantage Australia has of being almost last other than Russia, to efficiency standards is that we haven’t had, consumers have not had the benefits of choice, cheaper fuels actually, the benefits in your hip pocket. But the benefit of having gone last is there is a lot of real world lived experience about bringing in efficiency standards in other countries. And there just is no evidence to say in other countries where efficiency standards have been put in place, the real world lived experience is that it doesn’t affect price. That’s what’s happened in other countries. That’s the basis on which we have proceeded with the work that we have done. There’s a lot of detail in the 80-page impact analysis we set out. That’s out there for consultation now. I encourage people to do that. But, really, that’s the disadvantage and the advantage of being so late to this is there’s a lot of real world lived experience, and that’s what people would suggest – that it doesn’t affect price.

GREG JENNETT: I hear what you’re saying that it doesn’t affect price. You’re actually talking about average price, aren’t you? Price on average, because within the basket of cars that Ford, for example, will bring into this country, some are most definitely going up, while others presumably –

CATHERINE KING: Well, again it’s across the fleet and across the way in which manufacturers bring those cars. At the moment there are cars that are available – obviously in terms of Mazda, we’ve cited that as well – cars that are simply not available in the Australian market, cars that are well priced and are at that lower emission end, hybrid vehicles that you just can’t get here in Australia. So, really, this is about trying to increase the choice that people have.

What it also does over time, particularly given, you know, we’ve got New Zealand already has an efficiency standard and we don’t, what it does particularly for our market is it actually drives innovation, drives innovation in car manufacturing right the way across the world, ensuring that, really, there is the availability for a petrol car. There’s lots that you can do to a petrol car to actually reduce the amount of fuel that it uses. You can continue to have engine redesign, obviously the aerodynamics of the car, so it’s designed specifically across the entire vehicle range to get manufacturers to get emissions down. And that’s important for everybody, but it’s particularly important for those of us who live in regional and rural Australia like myself, or like Chris who lives in the suburbs of Sydney. Trying to get those hip pocket costs down for consumers.

GREG JENNETT: Understood. So obviously the principal design in this is that manufacturers or importers are allowed to have that mix of offerings. In your work, what is the assumed level of market penetration for zero emissions – I mean, what we generally call EVs – zero emissions vehicles at 2030?

CATHERINE KING: Well, again in terms of that, all of that information is available in the impact analysis. But really for me as Transport Minister, really for me what this is about is providing that choice across the range. We’ve got some really interesting – as I said, I got the chance to drive the F150. I know it’s a pretty amazing electric ute. It is big, but I think it’s a really good vehicle for regional Australia. I think it will challenge some of the car parking in smaller suburbs, but it’s a really great vehicle.

I’ve also had the opportunity to be driven on the test track down in near Geelong of the new Ford Ranger that’s coming into our market. It’s a hybrid vehicle, and what that allows you to do is for those smaller jobs you’re doing in between, so if you’re a tradie, in between those you use electric if you’re not going very far. But if you’re under tow, you’re wanting to go camping the weekend or you’ve got a job out in the regions – I always welcome tradies out into the regions from our cities – if you’re out in the regions, then you just switch to petrol. And that has significant advantage in the amount of fuel that someone uses for their work vehicle and for their recreation. And those vehicles are coming into play.

GREG JENNETT: Okay. When is industry told you that they would like this, or in your own reckoning, when does this have to be legislated by in order to have a secure pipeline for next year?

CATHERINE KING: So we are now part – so, releasing the impact analysis is part of the legislative process. So we’ve done that. We’ve got four weeks of consultation. We will look to drafting legislation this week. We’ll be talking to industry about that through this period. We’d like to see the legislation introduced in March, and obviously legislated this year. We’ve set a 1st of January 2025 start date, but obviously that then ramps up to get us in line with the US by 2028.

GREG JENNETT: Okay. And if affordability is a consideration here – I understand it is – why not relax the luxury car tax?

CATHERINE KING: So, we have done that obviously in terms of electric vehicles. That’s been an initiative that we’ve put in place. We’ve obviously also ensured that there are good tax depreciation schedules for the purchase of new vehicles when they’re used for work purposes. Those sorts of things provide great incentives for people to look at for having a new vehicle for work, new vehicle for their fleet but also in terms of those lower emission cars that are coming into the country.

GREG JENNETT: All right. It’s a big project you’ve taken on, along with Chris Bowen. Catherine King, I’m sure we’ll be talking about it again before too long.

CATHERINE KING: I’m sure we are. But we’re not banning any utes, I can tell you that for sure.