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Canberra Today 7°/10° | Sunday, August 14, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Steel seeks a better deal on car fuel emissions 

“Minister Steel pointed out there are currently ‘thousands of deaths caused by transport pollution every year in Australia that aren’t counted in the national road toll’.” writes political columnist MICHAEL MOORE.

HAVING an ACT Minister fighting for a better deal is excellent. And not just for “Ken Behrens” but for all Australians. 

Michael Moore.

Chris Steel has upped the pressure on all the other transport ministers and on governments around Australia to stop Australia being a “dumping ground” for second-rate cars.

The Transport and City Services Minister pointed out Canberra’s commitment to “Vision Zero by 2050” in a submission to the federal Joint Select Committee on Road Safety. This approach “means no deaths or serious injuries on our road transport network”. He also identified that part of the challenge is ensuring vehicles sold here meet the highest standards. 

To avoid Australia continuing to be a “dumping ground for manufacturers of less-efficient, costly and polluting vehicles,” the government should be adopting the standards Euro VI for heavy vehicles and Euro 6 for light vehicles. 

In response, a spokesperson for federal Transport Minister Barnaby Joyce claims that the “government is currently undertaking a review to consider …”. Yes, Minister!

Minister Steel pointed out there are currently “thousands of deaths caused by transport pollution every year in Australia that aren’t counted in the national road toll”. Additionally, one figure put the cost of no action to the economy is in the order of $9.2 billion. 

The “Safe Systems” approach of the ACT government includes ensuring that dangerous particulates emanating from cars are minimised as quickly as possible. While the federal Transport Minister is reviewing and considering Euro VI and Euro 6 standards – Europe is already preparing to move to Euro VII and Euro 7 by 2025. Failure on the part of Australia to stay in line with these standards simply means Australia gets poorer-quality cars.

A key element for Australia is the need for more-advanced fuels. Joyce, the minister for fossil fuels, needs to act quickly to ensure a reduction in sulphur and other pollutants in our fuels. Modern, less-polluting cars need appropriate, more refined fuels that are not available in Australia. There is no point for manufacturers to send their up-to-date cars to Australia if the fuels are inappropriate. It is better for them to simply install cheaper, older technology.

Chris Steel… Australians now have access to 31 electric vehicle models compared to 130 models in the UK.

Although Minister Steel did not mention electric vehicles in his submission, he did indicate their importance in an interview with the ABC’s Jake Evans. With the number of rooftop solar panels being installed in Canberra – pollution could be seriously reduced with more electric cars being available at a reasonable price. 

Already Mr Steel has taken action to minimise registration costs on electric vehicles in the ACT. However, there is a big challenge regarding availability in Australia.

Norway is expecting to have 100 per cent of vehicles sold in that country as hybrid or electric vehicles by early next year. This achievement is in marked contrast to Australia where 6900 fully electric vehicles were sold in 2020. This is less than one per cent of all vehicles sold in that year. And yet, according to surveys conducted by the Electric Vehicle Council, 50 per cent of Australians would consider buying an electric vehicle as their next car.

Mr Steel identified that Australians now have access to 31 electric vehicle models compared to 130 models in the UK. He pointed out that policy inaction at the federal level is seriously disadvantaging Australian consumers. 

The sale of electric cars in Europe assists with their mandatory carbon targets that are backed up with heavy fines for car manufacturers. Therefore, it is much more important for them to sell their electric cars in Europe than in Australia. As Prime Minister Scott Morrison works out how to get to net zero by 2050 before the UN COP26 meeting in Glasgow, he might consider such targets. Australian consumers could be the winners.

The leadership provided by the ACT Transport Minister is admirable. Some of his state and territory counterparts are already on side. He now needs to lobby the other jurisdictions to increase pressure on the federal Transport Minister and the federal government. The goal is to ensure the least polluting vehicles are available as the transition to 100 per cent electric vehicles, and to net zero emissions by 2050, gets underway.

Michael Moore is a former member of the ACT Legislative Assembly and an independent minister for health. He has been a political columnist with “CityNews” since 2006.

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Michael Moore

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