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Monday, 27 October 1997
Page: 9802

Mr MARTYN EVANS(1.13 p.m.) —I support the motion moved by the honourable member for Barton (Mr McClelland). It is a very positive contribution to this debate. I come to this from the perspective of a member who represents a district for whom motor vehicle manufacturing is very important, whether in the form of direct manufacturing in General Motors or through one of the subsidiary companies which manufacture components which are then used by General Motors. There is something of the order of 7,000 families in my district who are supported one way or another by the motor vehicle industry. It is certainly very important to our district.

I also come to this from the perspective of a member who represents a district where many of the people would not be able to purchase a new car. They do not have the economic means to do that, so the issue of the older motor vehicle fleet is also very important to them. One of the reasons why I support this motion is that it does not contain any mandatory requirements for the phasing out of older motor vehicles; it simply provides a very reasonable and sensible mechanism by which we might support the gradual reduction in the age of the fleet.

Australia has a very substantial motor vehicle fleet with 10.6 million vehicles on the road and over 12 million drivers. We also have one of the oldest fleets. The average age of our fleet is now 10½ years, which is one of the highest in the developed world.

That is relevant for a number of reasons. One is that older motor vehicles are more likely to be involved in road accidents, which is a serious social and economic cost to our country, and particularly tragic for the families where that occurs. But also, older motor vehicles are substantial contributors to pollution and to greenhouse gases. If we can find a way of reducing the average age of our motor vehicles, particularly increasing the number of those which are post-1986 when the new pollution controls took effect, we would make a very significant difference to pollution and greenhouse gas contribution in this country.

Surveys of on-the-road vehicle emissions, using remote sensors, suggest that 10 per cent of the cars on the road emit fully half of all the hydrocarbons. Conversely, the cleanest half of all cars on the road emit only 10 per cent of those hydrocarbons. Of course, the story is repeated throughout the fleet with respect to carbon monoxide, to oxides of nitrogen and to other pollutants. They are very substantial greenhouse contributors. Some 13 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions come from the motor vehicle fleet, of which about nine per cent is due to the passenger fleet. So that is again a very substantial contribution.

If we can find ways of increasing the fuel efficiency of our fleet and of reducing the amount of emissions through catalytic converters and other technologies which have been in use in recent years, we will do a great deal to improve the quality of our environment and to have a beneficial effect on Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.

The reality is that this government has done very little in that regard. They have failed in leadership on greenhouse and they have failed in this area as well. That is why the motion put forward by the member for Barton is so significant, producing as it does a mechanism by which we can gradually reduce the age of the fleet.

It would also have a very substantial and positive economic benefit in those areas that are reliant on the motor vehicle production industry—my own area in particular. But for the regional economies in South Australia and in Victoria—for example, in Geelong—and in those areas which are dependent on motor vehicle manufacturing, any mechanism which reduces the cost of new cars and thereby consequently reduces the cost of used cars as the effect of the new car reduction flows through into the marketplace would certainly be of benefit because people would be able to purchase a better quality used motor vehicle and an increased number would purchase new motor vehicles.

Where we have the age of that fleet being reduced, in the case of a Holden I think we would see the sales tax adding about $4,000 to the purchase price of a vehicle. If we can reduce that in any way, we will go a long way towards allowing people not only to buy new cars but also to purchase better quality used motor vehicles and thereby contribute to the reduction in greenhouse emissions, to the reduction in pollution, to a reduction in motor vehicle accidents on our roads and generally improve our economic position while benefiting the environment at the same time.