Interview with Meecham Philpott, ABC Tropical North

MEECHAM PHILPOTT [HOST]: Well, there’s been a bit of information coming out of the Federal Parliament in Canberra recently, with things like the housing emergency, so getting in and building a lot more houses around the country. The inflation figures, which is always interesting for those of us that are paying off a mortgage. And the big one too, of course, the New Vehicle Efficiency Standard, the NVES is rather interesting for every single one of us that's driving a ute, which probably have a bet as about 99 per cent of the population. Senator Anthony Chisholm is a Labor Senator for Queensland, the Assistant Minister for Education, Assistant Minister for Regional Development, and Deputy Manager of Government Business in the Senate. Senator, as always, welcome to the program.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Good to be with you and your listeners.

PHILPOTT: Can we start off with the NVES? I think that caught the attention of everyone in our region. Obviously, there's just so many utes where we are with work vehicles and that sort of stuff. And the reading of it, it looks like buying a ute is going to be more expensive once the NVES gets up and running. Is that right?

CHISHOLM: Well, that's not the case when these efficiency schemes have been introduced around other countries, America has had a fuel efficiency standard in place for almost 50 years now. And as you'd be aware, in America they like their utes as well, so there isn't any actual real-world evidence to say that that has been the case. We're confident that if you like your ute, you'll continue to drive utes if that's what you want. But what this does, is it ensures that a better range of vehicles is available in Australia, as has happened around the world. And some of those, obviously electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles, actually use less petrol. So, for those people who do want those cars, they will still be able to buy them in Australia and they'll be better off financially as a result because they won't be paying for the high petrol prices.

PHILPOTT: Okie dokie. All right, but if I listen to and I did yesterday, I had to drive back from Maroochy to Mackay. So, I had a lot of talkback radio and read the paper a couple of times and that sort of stuff. If you look, say a Ranger, a Ford Ranger, which was the number one selling ute in Australia last year, under the NVES, with the way that the carbon emissions work, there's a penalty involved if technology and whatnot doesn't bring that down. So, therefore that ute increases, they have to buy about $16,000 worth of carbon credits, is that right?

CHISHOLM: Well, it's not the case in terms of how these have worked around the world. And what this does, is it actually encourages - so, you're talking about a particular manufacturer to bring in a range of vehicles in their fleet, and that's what this is encouraging. So, when you look at how this has worked in other countries, the penalties that apply are there to encourage the companies to broaden their range and bring in those more fuel-efficient vehicles.

PHILPOTT: All right, I get that. Using Ford as an example, they've got smaller cars and there's probably an EV on the way and that sort of stuff. There's the balance. But where we live, and you need a Ranger because you're banging out four hundred k's a day and carting half a tonne of stuff around. If you wanted to buy that, does the price go up because the company, the car company that makes it, they have to buy carbon credits?

CHISHOLM: Well, that's what I'm saying is that the evidence around the world is that they adjust their fleet, they bring in a wider range of vehicles. But if the Ranger is the one you want, that's still the car that you can buy. And the evidence around the world is that that hasn't led to an increase in prices for those types of vehicles.

PHILPOTT: Yeah, but I mean, surely the car manufacturer is not going to suck up 16 grand?

CHISHOLM: No, but that's what I'm saying because of this applies across their whole fleet. They bring in another range of vehicles, which they're already doing in other parts of the world that aren't available here in Australia, and that's how they meet the standards.

PHILPOTT: Okay. All right, look, if you're interested in this discussion, too, my special guest is Senator Anthony Chisholm. You can send us a text, while I'm having a chat with the Senator. Quite happy to bring up your questions. Or you can give us a call, Mel, on the phones, 1300 101 222. All right, so if we look across the whole fleet, there's a standard as such rather than each individual model. Is that the point you're trying to get across, Senator?

CHISHOLM: That's right and because we haven't had a fuel efficiency standard in place, it means that the car companies haven't been sending some of those vehicles to Australia because they've been sending them to other markets that do have those standards in place. So, of the economies that you'd compare to Australia, it's only Russia that don't actually have an efficiency standard in place. So, America, Europe, all those countries do, and we want to bring in Australia in line with that. The previous government had an attempt to do that but abandoned it. But they also went through this process and said they didn't expect it to have an impact on the price of cars.

PHILPOTT: Senator, pardon me because I have to hang around with a bunch of journalists on a day-to-day basis, and that makes you a little bit cynical in life from time to time. But I'm just thinking with the NVES, and I guess the big goal, let's point out the big goal, is that our cars are putting out less carbon emissions, correct? That's the big goal of this thing, correct?

CHISHOLM: Correct.

PHILPOTT: Great. All right. But also, as we brought more renewables into our lives and everything, electricity is way more expensive. I mean, everything is kind of going up in price. It kind of looks to me like this could go the same way?

CHISHOLM: Well, all I can point to is obviously the evidence internationally that it hasn't had that impact on price. And also in regards to charging, for instance, I think it's something like eighty per cent of people, or eighty per cent of the charging for a vehicle is done at home. Obviously, people come home for the night and put their vehicle on the charge. So, I understand the points that you're making, but in terms of the evidence, they don't lead to that conclusion. But also, the point about this is that we've put out this for discussion. We are taking on board feedback, and the opportunity to do that is still open for another week.

PHILPOTT: Gotcha. Ian just rang in, too. Companies have been dumping inefficient vehicles in Australia for years because we haven't had the efficiency standards. Is that true?

CHISHOLM: That's correct, and that's what I'm saying. We've sort of aligned with Russia. The rest of the world have moved ahead of us and have a broader range of vehicles available to buy as a result. And that's what we're saying, is that if we bring in a fuel efficiency standard, it will increase the range of vehicles that are open for Australians to buy. You'll still be able to buy the Ranger if that's what you want, but it'll mean that for those people who are looking for an EV or a hybrid or something like that, there will be a bigger range available, which is important.

PHILPOTT: Yeah, but if I buy that Ranger, it's going to cost more. It has to because they're going to have to pay some sort of tax. It's almost a carbon tax, basically.

CHISHOLM: It's just not the case, Meech, because it applies across their whole fleet. And what the companies, and these are all international companies, they're used to meeting these standards across their fleet.

PHILPOTT: Alright, okay.

CHISHOLM: And that's what they'll have to do. So, that is how it has operated in other parts of the world.

PHILPOTT: All right, just quickly - sorry, I took a bit too long on the NVES because it's a big thing where we live. I think you can understand that.

CHISHOLM: No, no, I understand.

PHILPOTT: The argy-bargy of Parliament, I mean, it's all going on with the housing scheme. Are you guys confident you can get it across the line? Because what, its forty thousand houses we're talking about, basically, aren't we?

CHISHOLM: We are. And I know Mackay has had a challenge to housing for a number of years now, and I know the councillor is doing their bit. And it's really frustrating from our point of view, is that we think we've got a policy that will work. States have done similar things; we think this will add to it. And it's just disappointing that the Greens are teaming up with the LNP again, to block something that we think can make a difference for people in your part of the world.

PHILPOTT: Yeah, the team up thing, it would appear to me, the Greens and the LNP, they don't actually agree, but they agree to block because they both want different things. Is that about right?

CHISHOLM: Well, you'd have to put that to them.

PHILPOTT: But fair enough.

CHISHOLM: We think it's a good policy. We think it'll make a difference for young people living in your region that want to try and get ahead, want to enter the housing market. We know that's difficult. We think this is a practical way that the Federal Government can help. And it is disappointing that it is being held up. And the political games that we've seen from the Greens and the Opposition continue to play, but this is an important policy.

PHILPOTT: Absolutely. But that's the fun of Parliament and that's what you guys’ love, isn't it? All that argy-bargy, the tactics, the strategies.

CHISHOLM: I don't know if the Australian people like that.

PHILPOTT: We don't like it.

CHISHOLM: We're very conscious of that. We are very lucky to have been elected to government. We want to try and do things that help ease the cost of living, enable people to get ahead in life. I think the tax cuts point to that, it's disappointing that this policy has been held up.

PHILPOTT: Good stuff. Look, I'm going to have to leave it there, Senator, but thank you for your time. I really do appreciate it. I know you had to jump out of a meeting to take the call. Thank you.

CHISHOLM: No worries. Thanks.