When Australia flew its democratic flag in 1901 after the first election, Packard’s Model C Roadster rolled down the line in Warren, Ohio with the world’s first steering wheel.
There wasn’t much road infrastructure in Oz back then, let alone cars, and hot topics leading up to the vote were the construction of a transcontinental railway and dismantling the tariff system. Since that time we’ve flourished, with over 50 political parties wooing punters for a vote and more than one million cars sold each year. However, when you mix the two into an election, it all gets rather complicated.
Electric vehicles, climate change, emissions standards, renewable energy and local manufacturing are all on the parliamentary table. It’s a great time to be a voting-age petrol (or electric) head but it can get a bit baffling.
Wheels and WhichCar has scoured every running-party’s policies and distilled the important ones you need to know. And once you’re done reading, lets us know in the survey below which party’s car-related policies you’d vote for.
When in doubt, hit ‘em where it hurts. As much as it saddened us, local vehicle manufacturing turned out to be unsustainable when push came to shove. However, Sustainable Australia wants to respark mass vehicle production all over again. It suggests tenders could be sought to reopen the defunct Ford, Toyota and Holden plants, using public-private funding to produce a “small-to-medium utilitarian electric commuter car for urban use.”
Aussie startup ACE EV has already confirmed small-scale production of its electric vehicles will commence next year, just down the road from Holden’s old Elizabeth plant in Adelaide. There’s potential to achieve something bigger, but Sustainable Australia’s policy remains thin on detail, except to say that it will be “supported by an appropriate charging network.”
Animal Justice Party
Largely a single-interest party concerned with animal welfare, but backs a “climate tax” on fossil fuels. Precisely how that tax will be applied and what effect that would have on fuel prices is impossible to discern.
Besides being fond of rigid interpretation of scripture and having no qualms about squeezing church and state closer together (but only, you know, one particular kind of church), the Australian Christians party also wants to bring down the price of public transportation and improve cycling infrastructure to get people out of cars. Oh, they also don’t believe climate change is caused by human activity. Jesus.
The Australian Greens
It’s the very nature of the beast that the Australian Greens have never been hot on cars - dirty, fuel guzzling, climate-polluting things that they think they are. But the electric vehicle is changing perception, with the party announcing a policy to phase out coal power stations and move to 100 percent renewables, with $150 million earmarked for fast charging infrastructure.
Its plan is to “kickstart the electric vehicle revolution,” which in detail is a highly aggressive target that no petrol or diesel cars will be sold after 2030. Given a petrol or diesel-powered model’s equivalent EV is often pitched at almost twice the price, it won’t be feasible for many households to buy one - even if the Greens suggest the price of EVs will be reduced by “up to” 20 percent.
But perhaps redundancy on vehicle reliance is baked into the cake, with a push to have more people walking and cycling rather than driving around still on its agenda.
Independents For Climate Action Now
A predictably strong environmental message, with policies that include the managed phasing-out of fossil fuels for transport and power generation, as well as a move to 100-percent renewable energy by 2030. The party promises to provide incentives for home battery storage to help make that vision happen, as well as requiring new-build houses to be prewired for high-voltage stuff like solar generation, battery storage and EV charging.
ICAN also says it will leverage Australia’s huge lithium deposits and encourage more lithium mining and the creation of an Australian battery manufacturing industry. If you’re capable of reading the writing on the wall regarding the world’s shift to electrification, this policy has the potential to turn Australia into the Saudi Arabia of an electrified world and could have far-reaching (and generally positive) effects for the Australian economy. It’s very similar in sentiment to the ALP’s lithium plan.
ICAN also pledges to extend federal funding to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to accelerate development of alternative fuel tech including hydrogen and smart grids, while also establishing a local battery recycling industry. Those things will be important boxes to tick if a petrol and diesel-free future is to be in any way sustainable. If you’re considering voting for an independent this time around, this mob would be a good choice from a motoring point of view.
Katter's Australian Party (KAP)
This Queensland-centric party has few motoring-related policies to speak of, besides wanting to increase the ethanol content of fuel to 10 percent by 2025 – not to lower fuel prices or boost energy security, mind you, but for the (financial) benefit of sugar cane growers in the sunshine state. It also wants to crack down on rideshare companies like Uber in favour of the taxi industry.
Australian Labour Party
Besides a couple of gaffes where leader Bill Shorten clearly wasn’t briefed on how much the average EV costs or how long they take to charge, the ALP’s car-related policies are pretty attractive. Much has been made of their plan to increase EV uptake to 50 percent of new cars by 2030, while their policies surrounding a higher renewable energy mix (50 percent by 2030) and a rebate for homeowners installing battery storage will make those EVs kinder on the environment and less of a burden on the power grid.
Besides that, Labor has pledged a $1b fund for developing a hydrogen generation and distribution industry, both for eventual transportation use as well as industrial applications and export.
And speaking of industry, the ALP also wants to incubate a local EV manufacturing sector through a $57m fund, while also opening the door for Australian industry to capitalise on our huge reserves of lithium by kick-starting a local battery manufacturing capability. With the world’s carmakers increasingly concerned about lithium supply and battery manufacturing capacity, the ALP’s policy puts Australia in a great position to capitalise on that ever-increasing demand.
The ALP also wants to shake up the rules governing the relationship between car manufacturers and car dealers to introduce fairer terms for the latter, and also make manufacturers share technical information and servicing software to third-party mechanics at prices that are “commercially fair and reasonable” – something which could result in cheaper maintenance costs, especially for more modern cars.
Liberal Party of Australia
Nowhere near as adventurous as their Labor counterparts when it comes to automotive policy, but has promised a $100 billion fund for transport infrastructure under the guise of improving road safety. Also wants to boost driver training with a multi-million dollar pledge, but it’s a fairly weak-willed effort when you see that it’s just to provide novice drivers with one free practical and one free theory lesson.
THE NUMBERS: Electric vehicles with the longest ranges
National Party of Australia
Mirrors main Liberal party policies with a $100bn road/rail infrastructure fund, and also allocates millions more for rectifying major black spots and improving road maintenance in regional areas. Being the Nationals, there’s not much here for motorists in major cities.
Liberal Democratic Party
If you fancy a couple extra frothies after work before hooning off without your seatbelt on or a helmet protecting your noggin if you’re riding a motorbike, then this might be the perfect party for you. And don’t worry about those speed traps because your radar detector will start beeping when Mr. Plod is sitting down the road. Or, if you’re too inebriated to notice, you can simply pay the fine with a mix of demerit points and cash so it doesn't sting the wallet so hard. But given the LDP wants to set speed limits to the 85th percentile rule with a 10 percent margin of error, you might be legally sitting at 154km/h anyway.
That’s good news for modified car owners, who will also be let off the hook under a Liberal Democratic Party leadership. See, its spiel is that many restrictions on drivers should be lifted, with enforcement of traffic laws intended to protect road users from themselves - if having no impact on innocent victims - a low priority.
That includes a five-year trial where the blood alcohol limit is increased to 0.8 percent, highway speed limits raised by 10-30km/h, a 10 percent tolerance for speedometer error considered, special speed limits (for example in school zones) applicable only when flashing yellow lights are operating, passive radar detectors be re-legalised, covert enforcement of speed limits replaced with sign-posted enforcement, and wearing seatbelts and helmets (for motorcycles) should be optional.
Though some of the ideas sound a bit flippant, there are some conservative policies such as reducing speed limits over 90 km/h by a uniform amount (eg 10-20 km/h) at night and in the rain, that licence testing should emphasise the skills and knowledge required to handle a vehicle to avoid being a danger to others, that drivers should be subject to retesting after a certain number of years, and the highest enforcement priority should be on driver behaviour that infringes on the rights of others.
Pauline Hanson's One Nation
One Nation questions the idea of man-made climate change and as such has not made a stance on electric vehicles and emissions targets. But if it does rise to power, building new low-emissions coal-fired power stations and initiating a “sensible debate on the establishment of nuclear power” is on the agenda. So plenty of power in those plugs for EVs.
Pirate Party Australia
A fringe party with a funny name, the Pirate Party is mostly concerned with electronic liberty. However, the party also wants to abolish toll roads – something many motorists would probably welcome – while also easing congestion by increasing funding for public transport and cycling infrastructure.
The Pirate Party also wants to subsidise EV early adopters, install charging points in highway emergency stopping bays, legalise driverless cars and phase out diesel trucks and buses in urban areas.
Advocates a return to policy guided by good science, and as such wants to build support for a local hydrogen industry, construct a more robust power grid (which we’ll need for large numbers of EVs), increase research funding for transportation projects (among others), legalise driverless cars, and optimise the existing road network for better traffic flow rather than build more new roads.
Naturally prefers that most things would be owned by the state, but wants to steer new-car buyers into electric vehicles as a matter of urgency – except for those who frequently travel in regional areas. Also wants to replace fuel stations with charging stations but doesn’t exactly outline how it’ll do so. That said, the party envisages crafting a socialist utopia where most people take the bus or train – which will be state-owned and free, naturally – so private car ownership won’t be necessary for the vast majority anyway.
Hasn’t something like this been tried before? Seems familiar…
The Great Australian Party
Cheaper fuel and higher speed limits on six-lane freeways. It’s an Australian motorist’s dream, right? Well, that’s the gist of the Great Australian Party’s transport policies. It wants to re-regulate fuel prices and remove all excise tax on Australian produced liquid fuels. It wants to upgrade roads to meet the world’s “best practice” traffic rules and introduce international standards. But it’ll also make sure speed limits will be monitored by accurate, certified measuring devices “for the purpose of gaining evidence of any dangerous activities on public highways and connecting roads.” So nothing too crazy.
The Women's Party
Largely a single-interest party that wants to increase female representation, yet nevertheless supports research into EVs and EV charging infrastructure. Would act to enable a 100-percent renewable energy market by 2030, but doesn’t go into detail as to how.
Yellow Vest Australia
A smokescreen for racist radicals with a strong anti-immigration and anti-Islam bent, but weirdly has among its policies a pledge to “foster research, production and export of non-combustive engines”. That’s a roundabout way of saying they’ll support anyone making electric motors, but even if that applies to you a quick glance at the rest of their policies should tell you they’ll be pretty toxic to our country.