A High Court legal challenge has been launched against the Victorian government over its controversial scheme that imposes a tax on electric vehicle drivers.
Represented by Equity Generation, the two plaintiffs, Kathleen Davies and Chris Vanderstock, are arguing Victoria lacks the constitutional power to charge EV drivers with a road user levy.
In July this year, the Victorian government introduced a new tax which charges electric vehicle drivers between 2 cents and 2.5 cents for every kilometre they drive. The Zero and Low Emission Vehicle Distance-based Charge Act 2021 (Vic) (ZLEV Act) allows for such a levy.
From July 1, Victorian electric vehicle drivers have been required by the ZLEV Act to maintain a log of the use of their vehicles and pay that annual tax to the Victorian government based on the number of kilometres driven in the preceding 12 months.
“Instead of taxing clean technologies, the Victorian government should be concentrating on getting dirty cars off the road,” Vanderstock argues.
“Electric vehicles are cleaner and improve health and climate outcomes for everybody.
“Why is the Victorian government taxing electric vehicles when they have a demonstrable health benefit?”
The EV tax is expected to raise $30 million in revenue over the next four years, costing the average EV owner between $260 and $300 per year.
Key to their argument is that the State of Victoria lacks the constitutional authority to impose such a charge.
The basis of their claim is section 90 of the Commonwealth Constitution, allowing the plaintiffs to argue the exclusive power to levy such charges falls only with the Commonwealth, not a state government.
“In addition to the validity of the tax, our clients are concerned it’s also bad public policy,” the drivers’ lawyer Jack McLean said.
“It discourages everyday Australians from switching to lower emission vehicles, prolonging our dependence on polluting oil.
“It’s bad for Victorians, it’s bad for the climate and we will argue that it is unconstitutional.”
When the law passed, the Victorian Greens weren’t happy.
Greens spokesperson for transport Sam Hibbins MP at the time labelled it “climate vandalism in the midst of a climate crisis”.
“Labor’s EV tax comes at a time when transport is our biggest growing source of emissions in Victoria and we are lagging behind the rest of the world in the uptake of electric vehicles,” Hibbins said.
“Passing the ‘worst electric vehicle policy in the world’ will now make Victoria a global laughing stock, and we will continue to be a laggard in EV uptake.”