25 May 2021

TUESDAY, 25 MAY 2021 

SUBJECTS: Climate change and energy; electric vehicles; Territory Rights.

STEPHEN CENATIEMPO, HOST: Representing the government is the ACT Liberal Senator, Zed Seselja. Zed, good morning. 


CENATIEMPO: And the opposition's Alicia Payne, the Labor Member for Canberra. Good morning, Alicia. 

ALICIA PAYNE, MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Good morning, Stephen. Good morning, Zed. 

CENATIEMPO: Now, both of you must be concerned about the, what I just said. I think it hits the nail on the head from both sides of politics. There is a lack of touch that a lot of politicians have at the moment. And, and I'm happy to exclude you two from that, because, I mean, Canberra is obviously very different to other parts of the country, just from a size perspective. But, jeez, real people are not getting a look in here.

PAYNE: Stephen, I've got many, many comments I'd like to make about your opening spiel, but I'll just go to climate policy. And I just reject that because, you know, that climate action policy is being made in inner city electorates or inner city coffee shops, because Australia is lagging behind the world in taking any action on climate change, we're not even committed to net zero by 2050. Now, I say that coming from an electorate where the majority of people are very supportive of climate action and crying out for the Government to do more. But in those electorates where people's jobs are more exposed, where people have jobs in, in mining, etc. We need to have an honest conversation, like the people in those industries and I hear this from Chris Bowen and our other members of caucus who live in those electorates, or are visiting them, these people know that their jobs don't have long. I mean, the economy is moving away from coal, and the Government is lagging behind. So, to pretend that we can, you know, make those jobs continue by investing in gas plants and things like that. It's just, it's, it's not honest. And it's not going to work. And it's..

CENATIEMPO: But, Alicia, Alicia, I've gotta stop you there. You need to get out to these electorates, because if that's what you really think, you've completely lost the plot. And I'm sorry to put it in so many words because, seriously, the economy's moving away from coal? Give me a break. 

PAYNE: It is, it is, Stephen. Do you visit those electorates? 

CENATIEMPO: Oh, I lived in the Hunter Valley for seven years, Alicia, yes, yeah. Before coming to Canberra, I spent seven years on the radio up there so I know it better than most. Zed, let's talk about climate policy. The ACT government is going to give two years free rego to anyone who buys an electric car, so the rich get a tax break and if you can only afford to buy a second hand car, bugger you jack. 

SESELJA: Yeah, Stephen, this is one of those completely out of touch policies. What the ACT Labor Greens Government are doing is for those who can afford a six figure vehicle, the average EV in Australia is over $100,000 at the moment. Those who probably wouldn't notice it won't have to pay any rego but the family in the in the 'burbs with their $10,000 car, $20,000 car, taking the two or three kids around the place will pay full freight. They'll pay their $1,100 a year in rego, they'll pay all of the taxes to the ACT Government, as well as paying the petrol excise which of course is about maintaining these roads. So, this is one of those policies where, you know, you talk about being out of touch. This is one of those policies where a Labor Greens Government in the ACT has decided that those who can afford a six figure car or a very expensive car, good luck to them, I've got no problem with that at all. But they don't have to pay any tax to the ACT Government in terms of their registration fees. And I just think that that's the wrong way to go. I think that's effectively burdening the families in the suburbs who are doing it tough, who really do notice when that rego bill comes in, I mean, I remember my parents, when the rego bill would come in, and many would pay it quarterly, or every six months because it's a big deal for a lot of families. And it's not such a big deal if you can afford a six figure car.

CENATIEMPO: Alicia, I'm the first to say that whether we, and this is kind of a flip side of the coal comment, that we are moving towards electric vehicles, whether we like it or not, because that's the way the automobile industry is going. But this kind of policy obviously sends a message that the rich are getting looked after and the poor aren't. 

PAYNE: Well, I think the ACT Government's policy is a good one. But what Zed has raised does point to the problems that electric vehicles are far too expensive. I mean, the cheapest electric vehicle currently on the Australian market is $50,000. And that is much more than most families can afford for a car. And that's why Federal Labor have committed to making electric vehicles cheaper and more accessible because again, Australia is lagging behind the world. For example, you know, in the United Kingdom, 11% of vehicles are electric where it's just 0.7% here because of that cost. So we're going to do something about that. So if Zed is concerned about the cost of electric vehicles, then he should talk to Scott Morrison about getting behind making them cheaper.

CENATIEMPO: Zed, there's a fair point there, well hang on, I'll just ask you that because the luxury car tax, for instance, which still exists, which was there to protect the local industry, which no longer exists, there's no rationale behind it anymore. 

SESELJA: Well, that, that obviously applies to all vehicles. But what, what the ACT Government's doing which Alicia is backing is effectively the opposite. It is effectively the poor car tax, because they have to pay the full amount. If you've got the $10,000 or the $15,000 vehicle. I mean, Alicia, do you really think that if someone pays $100,000 or $150,000 for a car, they're really going to notice the rego cut? I mean, is it gonna achieve the end? But I'll tell you what, if you've got the $10,000, secondhand car, you notice, you absolutely notice that 1100 bucks that the ACT Government is charging you overall and all of your rego fees. So when it, when it comes to Federal Labor's policies, I mean, they took this hodgepodge of ideas on electric vehicles to the last election, which was soundly rejected. I mean, they couldn't explain their electric vehicle policy, and it was completely incoherent. So I'm not really sure how their policies are going to see more people get electric vehicles. 

PAYNE: Well, the ACT Government obviously has scope to do something about rego. And they're doing what they can to make sure that people have incentives to take up electric vehicles...

SESELJA: Yeah, taxing the poor. 

PAYNE: Well, it's not taxing the poor because they're not making other people pay more. They're not making other people pay more...

SESELJA: They are!

PAYNE: They're making people pay less for electric vehicles...

SESELJA: They're paying more than the person who has a $100,000 car. They certainly are, they're paying a lot more, they're paying hundreds of dollars more. I mean, that's, what is that other than a tax on on those who are doing it tough? 

PAYNE: Well, they're not increasing it. They're reducing it for people who are getting an electric vehicle. 

CENATIEMPO: Now, this is the flip side.. 

SESELJA: Sounds, sounds. sounds very fair. 

CENATIEMPO: Well, yeah, Federal Labor would say let's give, you know, we, we've got to stop giving tax cuts to the rich. Well, this is a tax cut for the rich. Now I want to move on from that. Andrew Leigh, Alicia, your Labor colleague has called on the Government to restore territories' rights to consider their own laws around assisted dying. I would argue that we need to take as much power away from the states and territories as we possibly can, because they don't use it very well. I use the Kerry Packer policy there - we shouldn't pay more tax, because the tax we give you you don't spend very well.

PAYNE: Well, at the moment, people that live here in the ACT or the Northern Territory actually don't have the same rights for, for our ACT Assembly to make laws on our behalf and those people are elected and they're a mature government that we've had for 32 years that represent us. And the Federal Government is stepping in to disallow us from making decisions that people in, or you know, even debating those decisions that people in the territories want. And I just think that is very simply unfair and it, voluntary assisted dying is of course one of the key issues in this area, and three states have already made those laws with two others debating them further this year. But it's broader than that as well. It's about the fact that we don't have the same rights as people living in Queanbeyan and Murrumbateman, because of the 1997 Andrews Bill in the Federal Parliament, and I think that it's time that the Federal Parliament let people of the Territory make decisions on their own behalf like everyone else in Australia. 

CENATIEMPO: Zed, that's probably less likely to happen, given the legislation before the Queensland Parliament at the moment where they want to extend voluntary assisted dying to people with mental health issues.

SESELJA: Yeah, well, there's some pretty concerning parts of that Queensland legislation. You're right. When it comes to this particular matter. Of course, this was voted on, I think, in the Senate not long before the last election. And it was a conscience vote, as you'd anticipate on a life or death issue like euthanasia. And my views on it are well known, I took those views to several elections. And I was heavily criticised by the Labor Party, of course, at the last election here for that. So they talk about territory rights, but they only do it through the sphere of euthanasia. And so in that case, it's always going to be

PAYNE: Um.. 

SESELJA: ... no, hey, hang on, if I can finish, it's always going to be a conscience vote. Now, on other issues, there are all sorts of other restrictions and I've argued against some of those restrictions. In fact, one of the first things I did in coming to Government was change the scope of Commonwealth interference when it came to planning for the Territory. So, there's all sorts of ways that the ACT as a territory doesn't have the same rights as states. I've always said I'm open to that conversation, but at the moment, the Labor Party puts it through only the frame of euthanasia.

PAYNE: Can I just respond to that? Yesterday when Andrew Leigh put this motion forward, David Smith, the Member for Bean also spoke in support of it because he supports territory rights and his constituents having the same rights as others. And he said that his personal view on euthanasia was that he doesn't agree with it. And that is always a conscience vote within our party as well. So that is not true. So, Zed, I respect your right to not believe in voluntary assisted dying, but I don't respect you as representative of the territory not supporting your constituents having the same rights as everyone else. 

SESELJA: But as I say, Alicia, if it wasn't just about the issue of euthanasia, then you would have a broader debate. And there are all sorts of restrictions on the ACT and euthanasia is just one of those.  

PAYNE: I agree, I agree. I'm agreeing with you, Zed.

SESELJA: Well then, bring a boarder one. 

CENATIEMPO: I think, well we finished on agreeance there. Alicia, Zed, good to talk to you this morning.

SESELJA: Thanks very much.

PAYNE: Thanks, Stephen. 

CENATIEMPO: Alicia Payne, Labor Member for Canberra and Zed Seselja, ACT Liberal Senator.