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The usual suspects were quick to their feet. "Heavy-handed," Bridget McKenzie snarled. The Coalition is "deeply concerned" the newly announced fuel efficiency standards will drive our favourite vehicles off the road.
Her Nationals boss David Littleproud banged the drum too, accusing the federal government of trying to take away the country ute. Of discriminating against regional Australia. Load an electric ute with a tonne of stuff, he claimed, and you won't get far. Tell that to Sydney's electric buses, David, which seem to handle their loads and steep hills with ease.
Of course, it was nonsense. No one's coming for the ute or the weekend or insisting anyone replace their diesel workhorse or jet-ski towing show pony. Australia is just catching up to the 20th century. Yes, you read that correctly, the 20th century. The new fuel efficiency standards will mean we will no longer have the dubious honour we share with Russia as the only two developed economies in the world not to have them.
The US is home of the bloated pickup truck. It's had tough fuel efficiency standards since 1978. The pickup didn't die out. It wasn't banned. The roads are still infested with these behemoths but the choice of more fuel-efficient vehicles has grown exponentially. And some of those pickups are evolving.
"This sucker's quick," enthused President Joe Biden when he took the electric Ford F150 Lightning for a spin in May 2021. Yet the Lightning hasn't pushed its petrol cousins off the road in the US. Late last year, Ford announced it would halve production of the vehicle because of softening demand. Still, even with reduced production the company could sell up to 75,000 Lightnings this year.
They may be crying wolf but the Nationals look more like rabbits in the headlights with their reflexive reaction to the announcement, stunned that after decades of inaction Australia is finally catching up with the rest of the world. Stunned also that the Labor government, which seemed asleep at the wheel last year, has this year woken from its slumber and is full of fight. First, it was stage three and now this.
And like the stage three tax cut changes, the Coalition will find it hard to argue against a regime that will give Australian motorists a wider choice of better vehicles, potentially saving them up to $1000 in fuel costs a year. They'll still be able to buy that Hilux or Ford Ranger but the expectation is that there will also be many more fuel efficient vehicles for people who don't drive utes to choose from. The days of dumping guzzlers on our market will be over.
It will be hard to mount a credible case when peak motoring bodies like the NRMA welcome the standards. "A business-as-usual approach meant that Australian families and businesses were not benefiting from the best technology designed to reduce fuel consumption," said NRMA chief executive Rohan Lund.
In the absence of credibility will come scare mongering. Transport Minister Catherine King is spoiling for the fight.
"We're going to hear that utes are banned - that is not true. We're going to hear that somehow second-hand vehicles are affected - that is not true. It is about new vehicles," she said. "We're going to hear about price - there is just no evidence to say that it will affect price at all of SUVs, or utes or any other vehicle."
We can expect a reprise of Scott Morrison's 2019 "war on the weekend" as the opposition tries to land a blow, even if it paints itself into a corner while ignoring the fact that last year the most popular vehicle among private buyers - those who purchase and register a vehicle in their own name - was the electric Tesla Model Y.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you think demanding better fuel efficiency will drive utes off our roads? Do Australian motorists have enough choice when it comes to new vehicles? Are you surprised Australia and Russia share the dubious honour of having no fuel efficiency standards? Email us: email@example.com
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- Aussie drinkers will be forking out more for grog from February 5. Punters will be slugged an extra 30 cents for a schooner. Australia's tax on alcohol is the third-highest in the world and is indexed twice a year based on rising household inflation, measured with the consumer price index (CPI).
- A second consecutive month of growing job ads numbers suggests the Australian labour market is faring well even as the economy slows. The 1.7 per cent increase in job ad volumes in January follows a 0.6 per cent lift in December.
- Treasury began working on cost-of-living options, including possible changes to the stage three tax cuts, from December last year. But Treasury officials told a Senate committee hearing that the government did not instruct the department to include tax changes in the proposals it was developing.
THEY SAID IT: "My wife will automatically quote and compare the price of diesel at every petrol station we drive by, like she's got oil-based Tourette's." - Ian Watson
YOU SAID IT: Humidity with heat is not just uncomfortable. It's also damaging your health.
"I came from the NSW South Coast where the humidity has always been hard to bear," writes Veronica. "I came to an area near Albury where the summers are normally hot and dry and find myself now in a daily, uncomfortable bath."
Ted and Jenny write: "We live on a farming/wildlife property 30 kilometres west of Merriwa in the Upper Hunter. Last night the temp didn't go below 26 degrees. At the moment, 11am the temperature is 31 degrees with 52 per cent humidity. Last week the temperature ranged between 38 and 41 degrees with high humidity. Normally, we would look forward to autumn, but for the past couple of years we seem to have skipped from summer to winter without that pleasant interlude. Our hearts do go out to those living in extreme conditions. We need to listen to the wake-up call."
"Oh, I thought it was just me," writes Susan at the beach. "What I hate most about the ongoing excess of humid heat is that my brain seems to go foggy and I lose interest in most things. Still getting a sea breeze but even that standard is now unreliable. Ceiling fans are fabulous so at least I can sleep."
Jennifer from Canberra writes: "Thank you, John, for your comments on summer humidity, a problem with which I've been struggling. I had welcomed the idea of a dry summer (while fearing fires) because the last three years of humidity in a normally dry city has been unpleasant. The combination of greater heat accompanied by stifling humidity has been awful. I saw my doctor to see why it was bothering me so much, fearing it was age or some undiagnosed health problem. I learned that this was troubling all used to hot, dry summers as well as cold, dry winters, which we've not seen for four years now. I loved Sydney but could not return in summer due to the humidity, so feel cheated now that it's assaulting us here too."
"Traditionally, I expect February and March to have a degree of humidity I find uncomfortable and make me long for the cooler climate of somewhere such as New Zealand," writes Anita. "This year, the humidity levels chipped in at the beginning of summer and have been unrelenting in their oppressive nature since November. While the dew point rises, my ability to cope diminishes, especially at night."
Sally writes: "The summers we loved as a young person were tolerable, even if hot. It was a clearer heat and unless you went north very rarely would you get humidity. As a considerably older person the tolerance of heat has definitely reduced, and as you said, what we refer to as swamp coolers aren't efficient when the humidity is high. Perhaps a split system is an option, but that doesn't cool the whole house. Oh well, we reside on a living planet and as much as we as humans try to 'save the world', Mother Nature has her own ideas."
"We moved from Raymond Terrace 20 years ago," writes Alan, who now lives in north-west Tasmania. "That was a hot place. I can remember the temperature being 40 degrees and higher. We lived in a one-bedroom unit facing the west and waited for the southerly buster to come for relief. We decided to go for a short holiday to Tasmania and three weeks later we moved there."
Bede writes: "Fantastic article, John. I consult in this field and I am in despair how the general public thinks climate change is some remote future problem for their grandchildren. It's probably going to kill my wife and me, indirectly, never mind our children. Without voters insisting we pull our weight, we will all die from climate change. No use deflecting blame onto large poorer countries. China's population uses - per capita - less than half the energy and produces less than half the emissions compared to an Australian. Let your pollies know you support them to get stuck in."
And Paul has praise on cartoonist Peter Broelman: "The cartoon highlighting the disadvantage Albo created by denying our poor $200,000 + Australians better tax benefits is spot on. How brave was our PM, announcing the tax changes and turning up centre stage at the Australian Open where seat prices could only be afforded by the well off. I think I know why he was booed when introduced. Keep it up, Albo, I used to vote Liberal but no more."