Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, the South Australian and New South Wales governments have placed a tax on electric vehicles. The Victorian tax regime I understand is 2.5 cents per kilometre tax on EVs. I am not sure what the detail is on the South Australian one. Can you say - to assist people who either have an electric vehicle or would very much like one when it comes through the second-hand vehicle fleet at auction - that the Tasmanian Government will not tax electric vehicles.
Mr FERGUSON - I don't have a response to you that demonstrates any intention to introduce such a levy or charge, but it is the case right now that this is at the leading edge of the new technology coming on to Tasmanian streets. I know it has been around for a few years but, as you know and you acknowledged, the uptake is a fraction of a fraction at the moment so as a government we are only incentivising the greater use of EVs. We intend to lead by example and convert our Tasmanian Government fleet to EV as well and to seed the second-hand market.
Ms O'CONNOR - A very good initiative and strongly supported by the Greens and was a Greens' policy.
Mr FERGUSON - Thank you for saying that but I want to give you a rounded answer. It is the case, particularly as we see the new technologies coming over the horizon including in the heavy vehicle industry, it is a matter of public record that state and federal infrastructure and transport ministers are having to deal with the issue that a lot of roads funding comes from the road user charges which are levied through the Heavy Vehicle Regulator. There is consideration being given to how you can maintain a fair playing field considering that some road users are contributing to the cost of the road infrastructure and others potentially will not be. I am giving you a transparent answer. This government has not made any decisions in this space.
Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, thank you minister. It is fair to state that every road user who registers their vehicle is contributing in some way of the construction and upkeep of those vehicles, as is every taxpayer, so we will just set that aside for a minute. What we need here - I don't know if you are receiving this correspondence from your constituents - but there is concern that Tasmania might follow the path set by other states and place a tax on electric vehicles. In your view would that be a regressive tax if what we need to do is electrify the vehicle fleet and reduce omissions from transport?
Mr FERGUSON - I don't have an opinion on that, Ms O'Connor, because I don't have advice, I don't have any guidance to prod me one way or the other, but I will offer the point of view that the government doesn't have before it a proposal nor do I intend to introduce one, but it has to be said that we are not in a scenario where, lets say, half the vehicles in this state are fuelled by fossil fuels and half are powered by an electric source, we don't have that scenario. We have a fraction -
Ms O'CONNOR - Unfortunately.
Mr FERGUSON - a tiny fraction of the vehicles in the state are electric. We are not facing a scenario where we feel like we need to make such a decision right now. What we want to do is promote EVs right now and get them on the road. The State Government can pay a lead role here in being the purchaser of a lot of EVs for our fleet and then when they have met their contract life we seed them and we sell them back into the second-hand market back in Tassie. I am not evading the question, I just do not have a policy proposal to introduce a charge like that.
Ms O'CONNOR - Just on the basis that we will be distributing this Hansard and your answer to people who correspond with us about this, are you able to provide any reassurance at all - you have said it is not on the government's agenda - but any reassurance at all that it is not the kind of tax a government that takes the need to electrify the fleet and reduce omissions would find appealing.
Mr FERGUSON - I really can't add to what I have said because I would be offering an opinion. I don't have one because I don't have any advice on this.
Ms O'CONNOR - Really, you do not have an opinion?
Mr FERGUSON - I have shared with you my point of view that we need to promote the use of EVs particularly while they are a leading-edge technology and start to promote them and at some point in the future there will need to be consideration given for how you can make it fair for all because the registration costs that you referred don't actually go into the road infrastructure, they pay for your MAIB premiums and a very small amount of motor tax. As you can see in front of you the budget doesn't provide a commentary on this nor a tax on electric vehicles at all.