ABC South East - Electric vehicles and bushfire mitigation

ABC South East - Electric vehicles and bushfire mitigation Main Image

09 November 2021


RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East – Breakfast with Simon Lauder

Tuesday 09 November 2021

SUBJECT: Electric vehicles

SIMON LAUDER, PRESENTER: The Prime Minister will today outline the government's electric vehicle strategy and a multimillion dollar investment in charging stations. Scott Morrison wants to partner with private companies to install 50,000 charging stations in residential homes and another 400 in workplaces. $250 million of taxpayer money would also ensure charging points are built in rural areas. Almost three years after describing Labor's policy as a ‘war on the weekend’, the government now predicts more than 2000 jobs will be created in the next three years. Although details on where are unclear, to get her response to this and to talk about other issues we are joined by the Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain. Good morning.


LAUDER: Thank you so much for joining us. What do you think of this policy that we're hearing about this morning?

MCBAIN: Well, look, it's a welcome development considering that in 2019 electric vehicles were described as weekend wrecking, and we wouldn't want to put any money into that type of thing. So I think if we had a look back at the Bill Shorten policy playbook you'd see close to a similar policy. So it's good to see the coalition now on board, understanding that electric vehicles are going to be the way of the future.

LAUDER: I suppose if this helps drive the take up of electric vehicles that might indirectly make them cheaper in the long run. But do you reckon we'll see some direct policies to make them more affordable in Australia at some stage?

MCBAIN: Look, the Scott Morrison in the last parliamentary sitting basically ruled out any changes to taxation to allow electric vehicles to be any cheaper. The Labor Party has said that it would be wise to make sure that we reduce some of those luxury luxury vehicle taxes to make the take up cheaper. We know the state's already had has made some changes to make electric vehicles cheaper as well. You know, we need to send a signal when he a market signal to allow people to take that up further and policy positions as a way to do that, obviously. So I think from if we are to end the war on electric vehicles, it would be nice to see a bipartisan decision taken to ensure that we're sending a price signal to the market to make it cheaper for people to take up.

LAUDER: And as you say it is just a few years after the government said that electric vehicles would ruin the great Aussie weekend with them now, funding charging stations, is this an end to what you called The War on electric vehicles?

MCBAIN: We can only hope so I mean, there are a lot of things that need to be done. It'd be great to see the Australian government implement standards for vehicle emissions in Australia, which most other countries have done, including the UK. I think that would also make sure that we get vehicle standards higher in Australia, which would also reduce emissions as well as trying to create incentives for people to take up electric vehicles. Not we shouldn't be fighting another election on trying to make the country a better place. And hopefully, we we've seen an end or hopefully we will see an end to policy debates on these things.

LAUDER: Okay, and I guess it's all related to the government's plan for net zero emissions by 2050. And with Cop 26 continuing in Glasgow, the Labor Party has been critical of what the federal government announced. But when are we going to see more detail from Labor when it comes to 2030 targets?

MCBAIN: We made it pretty clear that we wanted to see the government's modeling as they announced their pamphlet for net zero by 2050. The government said that they would release their modeling in the coming weeks and we are still waiting for that. They obviously have government departments at their ready to provide detail to the government. The Labor Party doesn't have that in opposition. So it's incumbent upon us to make sure we see that modeling so that we can also make sure we outline a detailed plan. Cop 26 is wrapping up at the moment. There's still some negotiations underway. And we want to see what comes out of that at the end of the conference, but our policy will be well and truly outlined before the next election.

LAUDER: Okay, now the Emergency Response Fund has been the subject of questions at Senate estimates lightly. Tell us about the funding and what is the concern that Labor has been raising.

MCBAIN: So this is a $4 billion fund that was legislated in 2019, prior to the Black Summer Bushfires. So it was meant to release $200 million a year, $150 million to disaster response and $50 million a year to resilience mitigation and recovery measures. Nothing has been spent out of that fund since 2019. The fund has earned $700 million in interest, and hasn't made any firm commitments out of it. I think we all having gone through the Black Summer Bushfires, know that there are numerous mitigation and resilience projects that we would like to see funded and dealt with. And this is the fund to do it. We know that there are plans for an integrative Emergency Operations Centre in the Bega Valley as well as Eurobodalla. We know that it'd be great to see more maintenance on our fire trails, we know that community halls should be self sufficient in case they become a place of last refuge, making sure that there is generated backup, and dry food supplies and satellite phones. So there are a myriad of things that people right across our region would be able to point to as mitigation or resilience measures. If we were to find ourselves in the same situation again, and I think we all just want to make sure that money that is allocated towards these projects is actually being spent on them.

LAUDER: Now in response to this, the emergency management Minister Bridget McKenzie said the money's been set aside and reserve for when existing programs aren't sufficient. And she pointed out that the Commonwealth has poured a lot of money into bushfire recovery programs in partnership with the states. Does that explain why this money hasn't been used?

MCBAIN: Oh, look, we know that there has been money spent in parts of our communities following on from the Black Summer Bushfires and that was all about economic recovery. There were projects that were provided funding to try to stimulate an economic response following on from the Black Summer Bushfire. That does not explain why no money has been spent on mitigation or resilience issues as you head into the next disaster season. I think they are entirely different things. We know that money has been set aside, essentially, for resilience and mitigation matters. And they are the things that this fund should be spent on. And as I said, falling off in the Black Summer Bushfire, there are a ton of projects in our communities, where we know would make a huge difference if we had those things available during the next disaster season.

LAUDER: Also in the news this morning, the restaurant and catering organisation is warning that cafes, pubs and restaurant prices will be on the way up because of COVID restrictions introduced during the pandemic and it's becoming hard to get staff. He said fair enough we should all be paying a bit more when we want to eat out.

MCBAIN: I think it's pretty well documented that a number of our local businesses are all seeking staff. It's not a phenomenon that's unique to our region. I think right across the country, especially retail and hospitality, we are seeing staff shortages across the place. Obviously, inbound tourism, backpackers and international students usually fill a lot of these gaps and we haven't had those people available. I would urge everyone to continue to support their local businesses. And if that means paying a couple of extra dollars here and there for food and for service, then of course we should support them but this is a huge issue right across our region, trying to find staff but also trying to find accommodation for those staff when they actually do become available.

LAUDER: Kristy McBain thanks so much for your time this morning.