Firstly, the argument uses a conservative "tax = burden/punishment" frame and misrepresents tax. (Google George Lakoff for more info).
U.S. Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” It's the mechanism through which we chip in to the common wealth to fund common good infrastructure and services—the platform for our economy.
I don't know about you, but I'm proud to pay taxes. I like having public schools, teachers, public hospitals, nurses, firefighters, transport infrastructure, and so on.
Now to the issue of transport emissions. If a govt wanted to decarbonise the transport sector within a social justice framework, it would first and foremost invest in active transport + public transport, and ensure the latter was powered by renewables and accessible to all.
The Vic govt is investing in Public Transport infrastructure, has repowered the tram network with solar, and is about to repower the train network with renewables.
The govt has a pilot of zero-emissions buses, though should follow the NSW govt's lead by committing to electrify the entire bus fleet by 2030.
What can a state govt do to rollout Electric Vehicles within a social justice framework?
Probably the most important thing would be to electrify the govt's vehicle fleet. This would create demand, strengthen supply chains, and bring second-hand EVs to the market—measures that lower prices for everyone.
Secondly, investment in enabling infrastructure is critical so that car owners have confidence to switch to that technology. The state govt is already doing this though should ramp it up.
Thirdly, perhaps the govt could facilitate no-interest loans targeted to low-income groups who want EVs but can't afford them.
Will the Vic govt commit to these measures? I hope so. It would be good to see them featured in its forthcoming Climate Strategy.
In terms of accelerating the rollout of EVs, you'd imagine that exempting EV-owners from the long-standing arrangement of road-users chipping in to the common wealth to pay for road building/maintenance would be low on the list.
EV owners do currently get discounted rego as a benefit. I'm not sure what effect this has had on uptake.
When it comes to decarbonising the transport sector, there's also the issue of freight and VLine network to think about, but that's another thread.
In sum, decarbonising the transport sector is about more than road-user charges for EV owners. The argument that the state govt's position on this minor issue undermines its cred on climate policy is an overstatement.
One other thing: When it comes to a govt torching its climate credentials, look no further than the PM Scott Morrison's performance at President Biden's climate summit. What an embarrassment!
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