Press Conference with Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP and Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, Toyota Hydrogen Centre, Altona North, Victoria

media conference
Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy, hydrogen, emissions targets, electric vehicles, car parks, economic management, fuel standards

Joint media conference with Prime Minister the Hon Scott Morrison MP, Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction the Hon Angus Taylor MP, President of Toyota Australia Matthew Callachor, and Member for Higgins Dr Katie Allen

MATTHEW CALLACHOR, PRESIDENT & CEO OF TOYOTA AUSTRALIA: Well good morning, everybody, and welcome very much. Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and also pay my respects to the past and present. Firstly, a very warm welcome to the Prime Minister, also to Minister Angus Taylor and also Assistant Minister Tim Wilson, Senator Sarah Henderson and also Dr Katie Allen MP. Well, this is our state of the art hydrogen facility and what it actually is intended to do is to help educate Australians in a potential future of low emission hydrogen. It's Victoria's first facility which actually produces, stores and actually can refuel vehicles all from renewable solar power. I would very much like to thank the federal government through the ARENA for actually co-funding this facility, it is greatly appreciated. 

Creating sustainable mobility solutions is absolutely paramount to Toyota, and so for us, the first step is being the 220,000 Toyota hybrids that are on the road, and they actually take a positive step forward in creating that low emission future. Mirai, the vehicle we just had to look at there is 100 per cent electric and it joins the hybrid portfolio with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and also full battery electric as well. And it's vitally important in our portfolio because a choice of power train is essential in Australia and it recognises the different practical needs and also the locations in Australia, which vary so much around this great country. Toyota welcomes all initiatives to actually reduce emissions. And with that, I'd like to hand over to the Prime Minister. 

DR KATIE ALLENFEDERAL MEMBER FOR HIGGINS: Thank you so much, Matt. And welcome to Melbourne. I'm so delighted the Prime Minister is here. We have the Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction and Industry the Hon Angus Taylor, and of course the new Minister for what I like to call Climate Action, Tim Wilson. It's such a delight to be here because these are important things for Australians. These are important because we all want to make a difference to our future. That means driving down emissions and it's about having a choice and having a plan. And so today are a set of very important initiatives, as the Member for Higgins I'm absolutely delighted to be here. I know my constituents will be enthusiastically embracing electric vehicles. I myself have bought an electric vehicle. We need practical solutions to do the right thing for the planet, so it's such a thrill to be inviting the Prime Minister to Melbourne. He's here on the front foot delivering for Australia. And I'd like to welcome the Prime Minister for some very important announcements today. Thank you, Prime Minister. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. Thank you Katie and to colleagues and everyone here at Toyota. It's great to be here with you. It's exciting times because Australia is reopening. Just to see the feeling on the ground here in Melbourne, it's just tremendous, look forward to spending a few more days here as well. And this is a really great time. Victoria, Melbourne in particular, has done it the hardest through this pandemic, and I want to thank everybody, in Melbourne in particular, but right across Victoria for the way that you pushed through. And it's just so great to see Victoria reopening, New South Wales reopening, our borders reopening and it's really put a spring in everybody's step. We're coming through this pandemic cause the pandemic is not over yet, but I got to say we've come through this with one of the strongest economies in the world, with the lowest, one of the lowest fatality rates of COVID in the world. And now we're approaching one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. But the big task for us now as a country is to secure our economic recovery to deal with the challenges that still lie ahead of us. Yes, we've come through this pandemic in a way that few countries have, but we have many challenges now heading into the future. 

Here in Australia, one of those challenges is the action we're taking on climate change and dealing and responding to the actions that the world is taking in response to climate change. Angus Taylor and I have just come back from overseas, from COP26, and there are a variety of responses and they all have impacts for Australia, and it's important that Australia has a clear plan to be able to deal with those. And our plan for securing Australia's economic recovery very much has our pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 at its heart. And that plan is driven by technology, not taxes. It's driven by backing Australians' choices, not putting mandates on them and telling them what to do. What we're seeing here at Toyota and around the world is, as Angus and I saw and we're seeing in our own country, is that the cost of technology are coming down. And that means the choices that are available to Australians and right around the world are becoming more accessible. So our plans are all about supporting those choices, facilitating those choices, plugging the gaps where they need to be plugged to ensure that Australians can make the choices that they want to make. Our plans are not about sending lots of taxpayers money off to big multinationals to get costs down. They'll do that themselves. They've got a keen interest in doing that, just like Toyota does, to ensure that the product that they're offering on the market for electric vehicles is competitive. What we want our emissions reduction plan driven by is that competition, by that entrepreneurial spirit, which seeks to drive down the cost of technologies so they're accessible to Australians. 

And today we are launching our future fuels and vehicle strategy. And that's all about putting this technology in the hands of Australians to make the choices they want to make. We're not going to tell them what to buy. We're not going to tell them where to drive or where they can't drive. We're not going to tell them how to live their lives and interfere in the way of life that they have. We're not going to put their petrol prices up to make them buy electric vehicles or do anything like that. Australians will make their own choices, and we're going to facilitate those by putting in place the infrastructure that enables them to make those choices into the future. The cost of electric vehicles, I'm sure Angus will tell you, we'll see that continue to come down as it happens with all technologies. Timeframes get shorter, the costs get cheaper and then that makes it possible for more and more Australians. You don't get people to take on new technology by forcing up their household costs on all the other things they're currently using. You do it by ensuring you've got companies that are driving down the costs of their products and services to make them accessible to Australians so they can make the choices they want to make.

So today our plan, which is another key part of the overall national plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, this is one of the key building blocks for future fuels and the take up of electric vehicles driven by Australians choices. And a quarter of a billion dollars is being invested in this to ensure that we're doing the practical things, you know, taking action on climate change. It's a practical challenge. It's an economic challenge. It means that you need to ensure that you've got the infrastructure in place with the hydrogen charging, just like what we're seeing here and supporting those types of facilities. It's making sure that smart charging facilities available to consumers. It's making sure that you don't crash the grid when everybody goes in to plug in for their vehicles in the future, which they will be doing more and more of in the future. It's about supporting, whether it's councils to translate their vehicles into hydrogen powered vehicles for their waste trucks, or indeed for large commercial fleets or heavy vehicles. Australia has quite specific challenges here. We're not like many European countries where a lot of these vehicles come from, or parts of Asia. I mean, we will see charging stations put in for electric vehicles in our metropolitan areas. That'll be done by the private sector because it makes sense for them to do that and they can fund that. 

But when you're talking about long range distances, when you're talking about trucks and ships, things like this that have to go over long distances. This is why hydrogen is so important for Australia and why it's the fuel for Australia to enable us to achieve what we want to achieve in terms of net zero by 2050, a plan that actually backs Australians in, rather than trying to legislate them out of jobs and legislate their choices for them. So with that, I'm going to ask Angus to take you through some of the key points of the strategy and then Tim can make a few further points. Welcome back Angus from Glasgow and congratulations on pulling this together. It really does bring industry together with consumers and the government to ensure that people are able to make the choices that they want to make for their future. 

ANGUS TAYLOR, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY, ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Well thanks, PM, it's great to be back here with Matt. We were here three years ago and ARENA put some funding in to get this, this centre moving. And what we see today is a result of what this whole strategy is about, this future fuels and vehicles strategy, which is a partnership between the government doing what it does best R&D and infrastructure, helping to inform consumers and the private sector. And of course, this plan is built on the back of those core principles that the PM talked about. Technology, not taxes. Choices, not mandates. A portfolio of technologies. It's not just one. Battery electric vehicles, hybrids, plug in hybrids and of course, hydrogen vehicles. All of them are part of the mix of technologies that can bring down emissions in our in our economy, decarbonise our transport systems and provide better products in the process. That is the heart of the strategy, this portfolio of technologies. 

Now what we're announcing today, in addition, is an extra $178 million for this future fuels and vehicle strategy, on top of the $72 million we've already committed, that's 250 in total commitment. We expect that to bring forward at least $500 million of total investment when we include private sector investments. And that'll be across a range of areas informing consumers and making sure they can make the choice based on the best information available. Having the supporting infrastructure in place for refuelling and for recharging. Making sure that we're integrating with the grid, as the PM said, absolutely essential that we have a grid that works and there's a special component of this which is focused on smart charging for homes. We know as more and more people charge from home, about 75 per cent of charging is done from home. It's critical that we have a grid that can cope with it. And so part of this programme is about making sure we get smart charging into homes so we can cope with many battery electric vehicles, plugging in and charging at the same time, making sure that we've got the infrastructure in place for heavy vehicles. And this is a crucial part of what needs to be done, and we know that will be more weighted towards hydrogen vehicles. And it's crucial that we have that heavy vehicle recharging and refuelling infrastructure in place, making sure that we've got charging infrastructure at work. 

We know a significant proportion of people are already charging, will in the future charge at work. So all of that infrastructure and integration with the grid essential, alongside informing customers and innovation and part of this strategy is about making sure we're putting Australian companies in a position where they can provide the componentry. We can provide the lithium for the lithium batteries, the other essential critical minerals that are needed to produce these vehicles as the numbers go up. We are already seeing this in action and the PM talked about the cost of technology coming down. Toyota, as I understand it, 40 per cent of their sales now is hybrid vehicles. That's a technology where the costs have come down more and more over time and continue to. Seven per cent of vehicles sold today now are hybrids and that number is going up very, very fast. This is what happens over time, as the private sector invests with appropriate government support, the costs come down. Choices are made. People buy the low emissions vehicles and emissions come down in the process. That's what technology, not taxes and choices, not mandates, is all about. It's wonderful to be here at Toyota and making this announcement today, and this is just one more step forward on the pathway to net zero by 2050 in a way that ensures that Australians are better off, not made worse off in the process.

TIM WILSON, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY, ENERGY AND EMISSIONS REDUCTION: Thank you Prime Minister, thank you to Minister Taylor and of course my colleagues and Matt from Toyota. Australians want action on climate change, but they also want to be empowered to be part of the solution and the potential of hydrogen as the carbon neutral fuel of the future is one which will empower Australians and households and businesses to be part of getting Australia to net zero by 2050. What we have is the opportunity to continue to lead the world in cutting our emissions while making sure that businesses remain competitive and part of that solution. Hydrogen plays a critical role because it can assist with reducing our emissions, where we have nearly 20 per cent directly related to transportable energy and resulting from passenger vehicles and freight vehicles. And if we want to get to net zero by 2050, Australian households and businesses need to be part of that solution and hydrogen fills that critical gap. It isn't the only technology, of course, exactly as Minister Taylor outlined, battery vehicles and other types of technologies will help fill that gap, too. But the plan behind the Future Fuels Strategy is very focused on what is the infrastructure we need as a nation to empower households and businesses to be part of that solution too, so that people can continue to drive between capital cities without facing the risks of outage or distance challenges so that people can get on with their lives and be part of the solution for our country. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Tim, happy to take some questions. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in 2019, you attacked Labour's EV policy, saying it would be the end of the weekend. Looking back, was that silly, shortsighted or just a lie?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I don't think their policy was a good policy. I still don't think it was a good policy because Labor wants to tell everybody what to do. They love telling people what to do, what cars to drive. I think Australians have had enough of governments telling them what to do, frankly. We've just been through two years of governments having to tell people what to do. For Liberals, that does not come easily. It's not something we instinctively do, and it's not something I think Australians want to see more of in the future. See I trust Australians. I didn't think we had to go and pay people to get vaccinated. That's what Anthony Albanese thought we had to do. I trust Australians that when they're presented with good options at good prices, they'll make good choices. I don't have to tell them to get rid of the car they've got now. That's what Labor wants to do. I'm not going to put up the price of petrol on families and make them go and buy electric vehicles and walk away from the things that they had. That's just not the Liberal way and The Nationals way. So, no, I don't regret opposing Bill Shorten's policy. I oppose lots of Bill Shorten's policies. I oppose his 45 per cent emissions reduction by 2030 as well and so do the Australian people, by the way. So, you know, I don't have a problem with electric vehicles. I just have a problem with governments telling people what to do about what vehicles they should drive and where they can drive them, which is what Bill Shorten's plan was.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] anticipates that 30 per cent of cars will be EV by 2030. That obviously blows a huge hole in fuel excise revenue, [inaudible], is that a problem you're willing to solve or are you planning to leave it to the states to implement their own distance based charges, as some have started to do for EVs? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think as these new technologies come into place and they'll happen over time, this is not, you know, one day all petrol vehicles shut down and electric vehicles start up the next day. I mean, that's the sort of thing the Labor Party likes to talk about. I mean, this happens over time and allowing consumers to lead this process, I think, is really important because you know what drives Toyota? The customer. The customer's always right, and the customer wants to buy electric vehicles at a cheaper price and get longer duration from those vehicles. And I'll tell you what, that's what Toyota will deliver. That's what other major vehicle companies will deliver, and they'll be driven by the customer. And as the government, we're not going to get in the way of that. We want the customers to be able to drive the incentives for these vehicle companies to drive their costs down, we don't want to drive those costs down by writing off big cheques to multinational companies. That's not the way you do this. You actually put the customer in the driver's seat and you say you're going to drive this and you're going to drive the companies to get their technology costs down. Now, our vehicle manufacturers around the world have been doing this for a very long time, and they're very good at it. And I have no doubt that they will meet the market and where the market needs to be. But that will have implications for revenue bases down the track. And I'm sure with many things, that's why I say the challenge of addressing climate change is just not an environmental one. It's a very important environmental challenge, but it's no longer about the if, the when and the why. It's about the how. This is a practical challenge now. This is an economic challenge and you need a strong economic plan based on the market principles which our economy is based on. You don't need to hand the economy to government to solve this. You actually need government to have the solutions to the economy and back that in and the choices that companies and consumers want to make. That's our approach.

JOURNALIST: The Andrews Government were one of the first state governments though, to decide to actually tax EV users to make up that shortfall where they assume [inaudible] switch over. Are you supportive of that? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it's a matter for them. State governments are sovereign in how they do those things, and that's something between them and their taxpayers. 

JOURNALIST: But the longer States implement schemes like that, isn't there a greater risk that the Commonwealth can never get that revenue back, that it is money you won't be able to replace it in the Budget as [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: As a Treasurer and as a Prime Minister, I know the one thing that ensures that Australians can rely on the essentials that are provided by the governments is a strong economy. That's what actually drives [inaudible]. What drives your revenues is that you have an economic plan that sees your economy grow and it sees people in work. And one of the key, it was the key thing that prior to this pandemic, when we brought the Budget back into balance, the biggest game changer in bringing the Budget back to balance was getting people off welfare and into work. If you've got a strong economy, then you can pay for hospitals. You got a strong economy, you can pay for schools. You can guarantee the essentials that Australians rely on. And so our focus, my government's focus has always been on having strong economic management because that's what underwrites the services that Australians rely on. 

JOURNALIST: How can you honestly spruik electric vehicles when you campaigned against them in the last election? 

PRIME MINISTER: But I didn't. That is just a Labor lie. I was against Bill Shorten's mandate policy, trying to tell people what to do with their lives, what cars they were supposed to drive and where they could drive. I don't agree with that. I still don't agree with it, and our policy takes a very different approach. Labor loves interfering in your life, they love telling you what to do. They don't like our plan because it doesn't tax you and doesn't force you to do anything. It doesn't pass laws that try to drive you out of any industries. It actually backs Australians to get this job done because we know they want to get it done. Whether it's, you know, up in the Latrobe Valley or up in the Hunter Valley or in our major cities here in Melbourne or right across the country. Australians are making these changes. We're backing them in and we're not going to do it in a way that interferes in their lives. We'll let them, we're putting Australians in the driver's seat when it comes to our road to net zero by 2050. Labor wants to tell you what to do.

JOURNALIST: [inaudible] low emissions vehicles, why continue with something like the diesel fuel rebate, which is kind of an incentive for people offering to use diesel rather than [inaudible]. 

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think these, I think user choices will change over time, and we're already seeing that in the mining industry right now. You've seen what Fortescue are doing in terms of re gearing their vehicles and their large trucks. Angus might want to make a comment on this. This will continue to happen in industries right around the country and that will see a change, I suppose, to the use of that rebate over time. But it remains an important part of the system for those in, particularly in remote and regional areas and their business models. See, we're not trying to shut anybody down. We're trying to open things up. That's the difference between the Labor Party and the Liberals and Nationals. The Labor Party want to let you legislate you out of doing things. We just want to support you in the decisions that you want to make. That's the difference. 

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you can't honestly say you weren't attacking electric vehicles and it was just Bill Shorten's policy.

PRIME MINISTER: No, I can, because that's true. 

JOURNALIST: In 2019, on 2GB, you said, "what about all these charging stations, how much is that going to cost? I mean, if you have an electric car and you live in an apartment, are you going to run the extension cord down from your fourth floor window?" Yet now today you're focusing on infrastructure, so you have to admit it's a fairly big conversion you've made. 

PRIME MINISTER: What we're seeing here is a massive change in the technology over the last few years.

JOURNALIST: Two years, three years and the technology has changed ...

PRIME MINISTER: Yes. Yes, a massive change. There's been a massive change in technology over the last few years, particularly when it comes to hydrogen, and hydrogen is a big game changer for Australia. Hydrogen is an Australian, it's a solution for Australia because some years ago, when the Labor Party was going to force you to go and move to a vehicle for which the technology hadn't arrived at where we are at now and where we go into the future, they wanted to force your choice and make taxpayers subsidise it. Now we just had a different view. Technology is moving. It will continue to move forward. Australians will make those decisions. What I'm opposed to is forcing Australians to do things, forcing them out of their jobs. I want to let Australians make their own choices and have policies to support them. Electric vehicles were part of our policies at the last election. They just weren't the Labor Party's policies because the Labor Party's policies, as I say, they just always want to tell you what to do because they love telling you what to do.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, quickly on a separate issue. Access to commuter car park documents has repeatedly been blocked by your ministers and your department. Why do you object to the public having the details of your car parks program? 

PRIME MINISTER: We announced all of our car parks before the last election. All the details were out there. I took them to an election and Australians supported us. So I'd love to see us get on as we already are in so many places. And with the Victorian Government getting on and building them, like we pledged to do and they pledged to work with us to achieve it.

JOURNALIST: Just a question to Minister Taylor, when you talk about choice, the car industry and the automotive industry argue that fuel efficiency standards and high quality fuels will actually improve choice and make more European cars available in Australia. What's your plan on fuel efficiency standards in moving to a higher grade fuel? 

ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, so as you know Rob, we announced a while back our fuel security strategy, and that included an upgrade of our refineries to reduce sulphur content in those refineries. That puts us in a position where we can improve the quality of our fuels so that our refined fuel can be in line with our imported fuel. And that puts us in a position where we can move to the Euro 6 standards. So we're working through that now. There's a review being undertaken. It's an important piece of work and we'll have more to say as that review is [inaudible].

PRIME MINISTER: The key part of our response Rob, as I know Angus has designed, is again, we don't think you have to put people's petrol prices up like the Labor Party want to do, in order to see these changes become a reality in Australia. You just don't have to do that. I think that's one of the big changes coming out of COP26. Boris Johnson, I thought put it pretty well at the start of the sessions, when he said governments can put around $100 billion in to this, the private sector puts around $100 trillion into these technologies. So where do you think the answer is going to be? That's where the answer is coming from. And I think the baton is really being passed over. I think governments have done a good job in sort of bringing focus to this issue. I think the communities have done a good job at bringing focus to the issue of taking action on climate. But now that matter is continually getting passed because it's the private sector that now is responding to consumers. They're responding to what people want. And you're seeing that here at Toyota, you're going to see it all around the world as new options and new choices get made available. Governments don't have to step in and tell everybody what to do anymore when it comes to this, if they ever did. And I think that's a good change. It's a positive change, and I think that's why I'm so optimistic about where this is all going to head and how well Australia is going to do. But we have to get the economic plan right. Economic management has never been more important. OK. Thanks everyone.