KEEP ON TRUCKING
April 18, 2019
Bill Shorten’s campaign promise to move Australia’s new vehicle fleet to 50 per cent electric vehicles by 2030 is causing lots of excitement.
Some Can Play, Some Miss Out
Because he is promising big change quickly, Bill seems intent on doing it by government decree, rather than relying on consumers.
That will mean lots of taxpayers’ money for electric vehicle buyers. It will also mean penalties for those who can’t participate, such as rural and regional drivers and the road freight industry.
And because the market is excluded as a force for change, we won’t see the price fall as sales increase, as we did with smart phones. Nor will we see the steady product improvement we saw with smart phones.
If only some can play while others miss out, then Mr Shorten needs to tell voters how he intends to resolve the problems created by his new decree.
Hello Brown-Outs and Bigger Electricity Bills
If Labor’s vision comes true, within a decade we will need enough electricity to recharge some 10 million vehicles every day.
Michael Hart, the LNP Shadow Minister for Energy, tells me that a modern electric vehicle requires 30kW of charge to travel 100 kilometres.
“Do the sums,” he says. “10 million by 30kW equals 300,000 megawatts (mW). The entire national energy market provides about 65,000 mW an hour.
“So charging these vehicles will demand five hours of the entire national energy grid, every day.”
Hello brown-outs and higher electricity prices as we scramble to increase supply.
And we still have to “Keep On Trucking”
There are other practical questions Mr Shorten should answer. The road freight industry is the life-blood of Australia.
Virtually every agricultural product we export commences its journey to port from farm roads onto council roads onto highways, carried by heavy road vehicles. Keeping those costs down is a key factor in our competitiveness in international market places.
The other side of the coin is that the everyday necessities in rural areas – from toilet paper to hardware, from nappies to boots, from canned goods to fresh foods - are trucked into us by road freight. What further premium will we have to pay to live in regional Queensland?
Hello petrol shortages and high prices
Assuming our road freight fleet is exempt, they will still need fuel. We have four petrol refineries left in Australia. What if even one becomes unviable due to the loss of sales volume? Hello petrol shortages and higher fuel prices.
Funding roads in an electric future
Then there is the problem of the future of road funding in Australia.
In an electorate like Gregory, road funding is a major item. We cover a quarter of Queensland, with thousands of kilometres of roads and hundreds of bridge crossings. The capacity of those roads and crossings to cope with vehicle weights and extremes in the weather is fundamental to both our economy and our daily lives.
Yet our vehicular count is relatively low. Were roads to be funded by vehicle counts alone, our road network would soon develop major problems.
The CSIRO has developed a calculation tool that allows governments to look at the productivity of roads instead of just the vehicle count.
The federal Coalition has been using this tool to improve our regional road networks. But electric vehicles will drain the federal government’s road funding coffers. How?
No Fuel Sales, No Fuel Tax Take from Electric Cars
For decades, the federal fuel excise has underwritten our road funding model. The ALP’s electric vehicle target will cannibalise this road funding.
Before you vote for EV’s, you need to know how the ALP will fund road building and maintenance, or we will end up like the US where road infrastructure is going backwards. In Queensland, we might be well on the way.
We’re Too Good To Take Their Money
Queensland’s situation is worse than other states because the Palaszczuk Government refuses to work with the federal government for party-political reasons.
Recent media reports state that $2.7 billion worth of federally funded rail and road projects in Queensland are being held up by the State Labor Government delaying approvals, not releasing the funds or demanding more funding.
A further $4 billion is on the line with Queensland being the only state yet to sign up to proceed with the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail.
So What Are We Spending our Transport Budget on?
At the same time, the State Labor government is happy to pay half a million dollars a week in overtime to commuter train drivers and guards in SEQ, almost two and a half years after the so-called “Commuter Rail Fail”.
This was caused by a union deal that means drivers can only be recruited from existing QR employees. This keeps driver numbers low so those lucky few get hefty overtime payments to keep the system going.
Even with Transport and Road funding being squeezed, two and a half years after QR was told to recruit and train more drivers, we are paying $2 million a month in overtime.
How Bad is Queensland Road Funding Already?
Last week in Queensland Parliament, the Auditor General tabled a report into the state of Queensland’s transport planning in 2017-18.
LNP Shadow Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Steve Minnikin, told Parliament, “We have a major problem.”
We Have a Major Problem
The Department of Transport and Main Roads told the Auditor-General they have a huge short-fall in road maintenance funding; $4 billion for the backlog as at June 30, 2017. Over a ten year period the shortfall is estimated at $9 billion. Yes, billions – not millions.
The lack of funding is so bad that the Department says it will affect their ability to deliver roads to meet minimum performance targets. I translate that as we have no money to keep our roads to the standard in the rest of Australia.
The Department says it will have to spend its limited funds to address safety-related defects rather than scheduled maintenance.
We are Watching a Vital System Fail
The Department says bridge and culvert rehabilitation is funded at 19 per cent of its need. Bridge and Culvert strength dictates the type of heavy transport vehicles that can use a road. As at June 30, 2017 the maintenance backlog was already just over $1 billion.
Pavement Rehabilitation – keeping the bitumen up to scratch - is funded at 16 per cent of its need. So the truth is we can’t even fund the maintenance of the roads we already have.
How can we watch our road network fail while allocating $45 million to a 2.5 kilometre bikeway in suburban Brisbane, or paying $2 million a month in overtime.
Actually, a wit recently suggested a solution to the overtime problem. If Queensland Rail can only recruit and train drivers from within Queensland Rail, hire a whole lot of cleaners as QR employees, then train them to drive the trains.
Seriously, we are watching a vital infrastructure system fail in Queensland. Every Queenslander will feel the pain. This should be the priority of both levels of government. Let consumers take care of the shift to electric vehicles. It will be smarter and smoother in every way.
In closing, I wish you and your family a happy and safe Easter as we all enjoy the cooler weather after a long, hot summer.
As always, thank you for reading my newsletter about issues in Gregory and Queensland.
If you are new to the newsletter and want to subscribe, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit lachlanmillarmp.com.
Lachlan Millar MP
Member for Gregory and
Shadow Minister for Fire, Emergency Services and Volunteers.