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Ombudsman Labels Victoria’s Electric Vehicle Tax as ‘Unjust’

Electric Vehicle (EV) and plug-in hybrid drivers have been charged “unfairly,” a report from the Victorian Ombudsman reveals.

The watchdog launched an investigation into the state government’s Zero and Low Emission Vehicles (ZLEV) Act tax after receiving 30 complaints.

Under the scheme, EV and plug-in hybrid drivers are charged for each kilometre they drive on the road, similar to the fuel excise tax paid to the Commonwealth.

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In once instance, a plug-in hybrid driver was slugged an EV tax despite being unable to find an EV charger in remote Australia.

“One driver of a plug-in electric hybrid, a vehicle that can use either fuel or electric power, reported travelling thousands of kilometres in remote parts of Australia using fuel, as there were no charging stations,” the ombudsman said.

“Despite the driver paying fuel excise on those kilometres, the department did not waive the additional hundreds of dollars payable under the ZLEV charge.”

Petrol car drivers already pay a federal tax on fuel.

A fuel bowser is seen with different petrol types in Sydney, Australia, on February 29, 2012. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
A fuel bowser is seen with different petrol types in Sydney, Australia, on February 29, 2012. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Victorian ombudsman Deborah Glass published the report on her investigation into the zero and low emission vehicle charge on Wednesday.

“We found an unreasonable lack of policy guidance to those administering the legislation, inflexible handling of complaints, and an unwillingness to exercise discretion,” Ms. Glass said.

“It is also wrong to charge penalties not provided for in legislation, and the money collected under this ‘penalty’ should be repaid.”

According to the report, the Victorian transport and planning department initially “refused to amend” invoices that charged drivers for more kilometres than they had actually travelled.

“As the Robodebt inquiry showed us, there are dangers in making assumptions and using average calculations to charge people,” Ms. Glass said.

“Assumptions have been made about how people will use their electric vehicles, which plainly disadvantage people with older vehicles or those who have less access to charging stations.”

Ms. Glass noted while the report focuses on Victoria’s transport and planning department, there are broader lessons for the public sector about the dangers of making policy on the run.

The Victorian Government’s ZLEV road user charge was initial introduced in July 2021.

At the time of introducing the charges, the state government reasoned that EV drivers do not pay for road maintenance.

Petrol cars contribute to road upgrades via the federal fuel tax.

The ombudsman report does not question the validity of the legislation, which is currently being challenged in the Australian High court by two electric car drivers.

It comes after NRMA announced they plan to start making motorists pay to fast-charge their EVs at its charging sites across the entire network.

There are 19,200 ZLEVs registered in Victoria and 180 complaints have been made to the department, the ombudsman stated.

More than 67 percent of the complaints related to “unsatisfactory process” or policy.

More than 240 registrations of ZLEV cars have been cancelled.

The Epoch Times has contacted the Victorian Transport department for comment.

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