The ACT Greens say Chief Minister Andrew Barr is out of touch with what low-income Canberrans may be able to afford to spend on sustainable travel options such as an e-bike.
In question time, ACT Greens spokesperson for transport and active travel Jo Clay asked Chief Minister Andrew Barr why e-bikes were not included in the ACT Government’s sustainable household loan scheme. The scheme provides interest-free loans between $2000 and $15,000 so Canberrans can buy items like solar panels or electric cars for low-income, means-tested households.
Ms Clay wants the government to consider adding e-bikes to the scheme as they are a sustainable transport option which would suit many Canberrans looking to “do the right thing by the climate”.
But Mr Barr argued there was no need to add e-bikes to the scheme as “there are literally dozens of e-bikes available for well below” the scheme’s minimum loan of $2000.
“Access to capital is not a major barrier to purchasing an e-bike. You can buy an e-bike for less than $1000, and you can certainly buy a wide range of e-bikes for between $1000 and $2000, all of which fall below the minimum loan amount of the scheme,” Mr Barr said.
But Ms Clay refuted this. She said $2000 is a major barrier for many Canberrans “despite what Andrew Barr believes”, and she argued there aren’t many good e-bikes on the market for less than $2000.
“If you’re a student, someone on welfare, or if you work part time, you may not be able to afford the upfront payment of an e-bike or e-cargo bike.
“Andrew Barr said that access to capital is not a major barrier to purchasing an e-bike, but to many people, it is a barrier. E-bikes are a great way of replacing a car or the second family car. But to get reliable transport, you might need an e-bike with a longer range battery, or an e-cargo bike that can carry the shopping or a couple of kids. These cost more than $2000,” she explained.
Mr Barr said the government would not consider lowering the minimum loan amount.
“An individual who can’t raise $2000 may have difficulty paying a loan back, so we have to be very wary of the type of loan arrangements that we put people into in that context for such small amounts of a loan. That is a concern.
“We’re looking to provide support for capital intensive items that have 10-year paybacks so reducing the loan amount below $2000 is not something we would consider,” Mr Barr said.
But the Chief Minister did say the government would continue to evaluate the products available on the scheme. Electric cars were only added to the scheme last December.