Labor open to ‘sensible’ changes to fuel standards

Tess Ikonomou |

Energy Minister Chris Bowen has hinted there might be wiggle room on fuel efficiency standards.
Energy Minister Chris Bowen has hinted there might be wiggle room on fuel efficiency standards.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen has left the door open to “good faith” changes to proposed fuel efficiency standards.

The standards, which would bring Australia in line with other advanced economies, would come into effect from 2025 should legislation pass.

The federal government would consider suggestions put forward by the industry to achieve the government’s objectives, Mr Bowen said on Sunday.

“So where an idea has been made to us sensibly, we will consider attentively in good faith to help the implementation of what is a big and complicated policy space,” he told ABC Television’s Insiders program.

“There have been people of goodwill, both in the industry and elsewhere, who said ‘we agree with your ambition, we agree with what you’re trying to do and here’s some ideas about how we think the implementation could be done as smoothly as possible’.”

Mr Bowen dismissed claims by Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and others that the cost of a ute would soar under the plan.

“That hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world, and why would it happen in Australia,” he said.

“This is just a ridiculous scare campaign from Peter Dutton.”

It’s estimated cars in Australia use 20 per cent more fuel than similar vehicles in the US.

Asked if the government was willing to shift on its ambition of a 60 per cent reduction in emissions in five years, Mr Bowen said Australia had a lot of catching up to do.

“We are not going to be sort of bullied out of proceeding with a policy which is in the best interests of the Australian people,” he said.

Meanwhile, the coalition is continuing to trumpet its plan – details of which are yet to be released – to transition Australia to nuclear energy.

Opposition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien said experts had told the coalition that Australia could have nuclear “up and running within a 10 year period”.

“If you want to get to net zero, and make sure energy is still affordable and reliable you must have zero emissions nuclear in your mix,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

In response, Mr Bowen said “tell him he’s dreaming”.

“I could point to the United States’ experience … the nuclear leader of the world,” he added.

“The average build time of a nuclear power plant in United States has been 19 years.”