Page 3261 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 19 August 2008

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Unfortunately, in this city that was designed to ease the movement of cars, people tend to see the good life that can be lived here as being dependent on driving from place to place. With the price of oil on the way up, goodness knows what the future holds for petrol-based cars. If we are going to drive them, we need to make sure they have the least impact possible on our environment, and that includes not just stamp duty but making sure that we have as many people in the cars as possible. How do we encourage people, for instance, to fill their cars with passengers rather than having to see that endless line of single-driver vehicles on our way to work every morning? That is as good a way as any of reducing emissions. Let us see the incentives for car sharing.

Any follower of automotive company developments cannot fail to notice the number of battery electric vehicles due for release in the near future. Obviously the manufacturers are aware of something hitherto unpublished that will make fossil fuels unattractive.

I note and endorse what the Liberals said about life-cycle approaches, and I share a lot of their concerns about the hybrid vehicles. Of course, it is counterintuitive to think that a hybrid might not be good for the environment. In fact, I believe that a really low-emission, petrol-driven car can be as efficient as a hybrid at the present stage. But what the hybrid is telling us with its growing market is that people want change. That is the crux of it. It is an absolute demonstration that people want to make a difference, and it will push these technologies so that we do get better and more environmentally sensitive cars. Things do not change just because the Liberals say they should.

We hear that the ACT government is also doing all that it can to reduce its own transport emissions. Mr Hargreaves says that 100 per cent of the car fleet is carbon neutral. That is greenwash! Giving people the impression that they can drive a car as much as they want and then paying someone else to plant some trees is not carbon neutrality. There is so much more to this story. Let us have a whole-of-life-cycle analysis of each car type; let us think about the annual costs to the owners and to the government of running cars; let us think about the roads, the parking spaces we provide, the health impacts and so on. Even if all the cars in the ACT were converted to low-emission vehicles, we would still have traffic congestion, the same lack of parking spaces and the same number of accidents.

A recent study in the US showed that even if every single car was converted to hybrid but our current growth in car usage continued, we would produce more CO2 than we do today. We need to reduce the number of cars, not just the CO2 that they produce. Without better public transport and without more car pooling, the car population will increase at the rate of population growth and the coming of age of our children. Our children want cars when they reach 17, and many of them get them. The answer is not more roads and car parks but a better, more reliable public transport system. If the ACTION network was as good as the government brags it is, Canberra would be a better place. We need real incentives to get people out of their single-occupant cars and into buses and light rail.

I am glad to see that this scheme is based on a combination of two environmental ratings from the commonwealth green vehicle guide greenhouse rating, based on the

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