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(Australian Associated Press)
The federal government has compared the likelihood of a “carbon tax” on the family car to an Elvis sighting.
The coalition was on Wednesday hosing down reports industry consultations on a new vehicle emissions standard could result in cars costing thousands of dollars more.
“Certainly no decisions have been made in that regard at all,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters in London.
Bureaucrats are reportedly considering hitting high CO2-emitting petrol vehicles with a charge for exceeding new motor vehicle emissions standards once they’re adopted.
Peak motoring body the Australian Automobile Association warned if such a proposal became reality the price of the average family car could rise by as much as $5000.
But Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg says that’s a beat-up and consultations on fuel efficiency standards have been ongoing since October 2015 with no final decision yet made.
“There is as much chance of a carbon tax on cars as Elvis making a comeback,” he told ABC television.
“The only thing the government is interested in is how do we reduce the fuel costs for families on their vehicles.”
Labor complained the government had taken too long to move on vehicle emissions when the majority of the world had managed to set new standards.
“Really, Mr Turnbull should stop faffing about and just establish vehicle emissions standards to reduce pollution,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told reporters in South Australia.
He offered the opposition’s cooperation to set stricter emission standards – which is Labor policy – but said it wouldn’t support a “carbon tax on motor vehicles”.
Conservative Liberal senator Eric Abetz said the infrastructure department’s model “had all the hallmarks of a mini-carbon tax” and praised ministers for putting the “issue back into the cupboard where it belongs”.
The AAA says if the proposal is implemented it could stop people from buying new, more efficient cars and instead keep their dirtier vehicles.
“Even the makers of the Toyota Prius (hybrid) would be penalised under the government’s proposed emission scheme rules,” CEO Michael Bradley told ABC radio.
Australia’s emissions standard for new vehicles have been in place for almost 50 years and progressively updated over the years.
The department says current day updates aim to “reflect Australia’s commitment to harmonise with the vehicle standards developed by the United Nations, wherever possible”.
A draft plan on potential measures to reduce vehicle emissions is due to go before federal government later this year.