Nation changing lanes to electric vehicles
A national summit has been convened to discuss the future of electric vehicles in Australia. Photo: Getty Live

Australians will have greater choice of electric vehicles as the federal government encourages more into the low-emitting cars.

The government will also take action on dirty car emissions by introducing national fuel standards for manufacturers after a consultation period.

High prices, limited stock and long waitlists have excluded most from the electric vehicle market but a new national plan will help change that, Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen says.

The national strategy to be developed with state and territory leaders will aim to grow Australia’s electric vehicle market and improve fuel efficiency standards.

Mr Bowen announced the plan at the inaugural national electric vehicle summit on Friday, attended by politicians, industry representatives and community leaders.

“There’s got to be a genuine effort by manufacturers to send good electric and no emissions vehicles to Australia,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“At the moment frankly, I’m sorry to say Australia is a dumping ground for cars which would not be able to be sent to other countries.”

Parliament must push for the strongest possible fuel efficiency standards, independent MP Sophie Scamps said.

“Australia has been left behind … and we need to catch up when it comes to electric vehicles,” she told AAP.

“I will also be supporting the rollout of infrastructure to make sure that as we increase the number of electric vehicles in the market, there is the infrastructure to support it.”

Dr Scamps will back a proposal by fellow crossbencher Kylea Tink to legislate binding fuel efficiency standards in Australia within the next two years.

Timelines for legislating standards will be decided as part of the public consultation on the strategy, Mr Bowen said.

The government’s plan was welcomed by industry while tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who co-founded the summit, said it was a “refreshing step” from the government.

But policy changes in Australia needed to be more of a “leap” to catch up to the rest of the world, Mr Cannon-Brookes said.

Mr Bowen estimates Australia is about a decade behind Europe in electric vehicle policy.

Meanwhile, Greens deputy leader Mehreen Faruqi called on the government to ban new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 to bring Australia in line with other countries.

The Greens also want further investment from the government for fast charging networks across Australia.

“This manufacturing renaissance must be just, ethical and sustainable with decent jobs for workers,” she said in a speech to the summit.

“The only thing holding back greater action is the level of ambition from Labor.”

Transition to an electric vehicle future must be driven by industry-led policy ideas, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union says.

AMWU secretary Steve Murphy called for a national innovation council to be established for the electric vehicle sector.

“A rapid technology change on this scale requires co-ordination between government departments, levels of government, firms, training providers and unions,” he said in a speech to the summit.

“There can be no transition to electric vehicles without the workers in the sector.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers last month introduced a proposal to parliament to change fringe benefits tax laws and remove the import tariff on electric vehicles, to make them cheaper for more people.

But independent advocate for vehicle safety ANCAP says environmental targets should not take precedence over consumer protection.

All levels of government must only provide subsidies and incentives to vehicle models that offer the highest levels of safety, ANCAP chief Carla Hoorweg said.

– AAP

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