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Anthony Albanese flatly denies claim Thai PM asked for slowing of fuel efficiency standards | Australian foreign policy

Written by World News

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has denied that the Thai prime minister, Srettha Thavisin, asked him to slow the introduction of Australia’s planned fuel efficiency standard, as tensions simmer between climate advocates and car companies over the proposal to import cleaner vehicles.

Albanese and Thavisin met on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Asean summit in Melbourne. An account of the conversation released by the Thai government said Thavisin raised Australia’s proposed fuel efficiency standard and how it might affect car exports from his country.

Australia’s proposed fuel standard will place a cap on the emissions from new cars to incentivise carmakers to supply low- and zero-emissions vehicles. The cap will be lowered over time.

The government plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect from January 2025.

According to the Thai government, Thavisin raised the proposed timeline with Albanese.

“Thailand is considering the Australian government’s draft law setting standards for the efficiency of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles (New Vehicle Efficiency Standard: NVES),” a translation of the Thai government readout said.

“Currently, Thailand exports more than 200,000 cars to Australia per year, with pickup trucks being the main export product. The Prime Minister (Thavisin) has asked for the new standards to be gradually implemented.

“This gives manufacturers and exporters time to make the transition away from combustion vehicles consistent with their shared environmental commitments and economic benefits,” it said.

However, on Wednesday afternoon, Albanese denied that Thavisin asked Australia to slow the rollout of the standard and said the topic wasn’t raised.

“There was no request,” Albanese said.

“I had a bilateral meeting. What we have is a consultation paper out there. We’ve had a big scare campaign in the lead up to the Dunkley byelection talking about all cars you think would be taken off the road by now. It is now Wednesday … I can see there are still big vehicles out there on the road, including some we have used in some of the traffic around Melbourne.”

Albanese added: “I met with the Thai prime minister and all I can do is report that it wasn’t raised. So I know that some in the media might think it’s a big issue, he obviously didn’t think it was a big enough issue for him to raise.

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“Australia will look after Australia’s national interest and I remind everyone that there are only two countries, two industrialised countries that don’t have emissions standards. One of them is Australia and the other is Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I don’t want to be on the same page as Russia on this or any other issue,” Albanese said.

Thai media have since reported that Thavisin made an appeal to Albanese on behalf of his country’s auto industry.

The Albanese government’s preferred model, released in early February, is expected to cut 369m tonnes of CO2 by 2050 – equivalent to the last six years of emissions from light vehicles in Australia.

Industry analysts have routinely warned that manufacturers are treating Australia as a dumping ground for heavily polluting vehicles due to a lack of penalties.

A new car sold in Australia uses, on average, 6.9 litres of fuel per 100km compared with new cars in Europe and the US that use 3.5 litres and 4.2 litres, respectively.

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