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As NSW’s Road Minister, I know we need to provide incentives for electric cars | Andreas Constance

In the days since the “black summer” bushfires, I have seen my community suffer. This moment in our history was a major climatic event and the largest forest fires our nation has ever seen.

We cannot spend more time or energy discussing climate change. We have to act now. It doesn’t matter whether you think it’s real or not – regardless of your point of view, you will benefit from the innovation.

One immediate way to drive change is to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads.

What we have seen in Australia is too much concern about the loss of tax revenue. It is believed that as we expand our electric vehicle market, we will see the dollars poured out from lowering fuel consumption taxes.

But we need to encourage change for the better, not discourage it. We need visionary thinking to deal with this issue. We have to create incentives for the market. We need to see differences in price points – the notion that electric vehicles are only for the wealthy needs to be dispelled – and most importantly, we need to do it here and now.

I went to Oslo a few years ago to see what was happening there with electric vehicles. They’re so much further down – they even have electric excavators and ferries. Meanwhile in Australia we are still focusing on an outdated approach. We worry about taxes while we should worry about how to speed up the electrification process. It makes me nervous that we are having a debate about revenue. We have to think differently.

As Minister of Transport and Roads, I changed the electric bus situation in New South Wales very quickly. We now have a manufacturer in west Sydney that makes electric buses and we will have the entire fleet electric by the end of the decade.

As anyone who has been to Sydney knows, we keep seeing smoke and mist settling over the pool. This mix contains a toxic cocktail of nitrogen oxides and diesel particles that everyone inhales. Even climate skeptics cannot deny that this is bad for our health and that something has to change.

I don’t think we should be introducing a road toll anytime soon. Victoria took this route and made herself the mockery of the world. A road user fee for electric vehicles is said to be out of date for many, many years. Not now. Only when we have an affordable electric vehicle market and the right range. First of all, we need to encourage inclusion.

We need to look at the incentives that are helping people choose to buy and drive electric vehicles. In Überseestädten there are parking lots that are fully equipped with charging stations where people can park their cars for free and charge them for free all day. I want to see access to transit lanes and similar incentives here in NSW to encourage the use of electric vehicles. It is also imperative that we deal with the price associated with buying an electric vehicle in both the new and used car market.

Why don’t we look at the stamp duty incentives and, at the national level, the luxury car cap? Our taxes must be geared towards creating incentives and incentives for electric vehicles, not the other way around. We also have to look at the existing infrastructure to deal with range anxiety, especially in regional areas where longer distances have to be covered. But I am inspired and excited about the possibilities and I think we can achieve all of this and more if we just think creatively and show leadership. We will all see great benefits for our health, our environment and the future of this country.

I am very encouraged by what I think will happen and I think Australia should consider all possible avenues. We shouldn’t see this just as something that happens in Norway or in other foreign countries. We can implement it at home here and now.

We should say to the world, “We can do this as well as all of you, if not better”.

Andrew Constance is New South Wales’ Secretary of Transportation and Roads

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