Australia: Charge for use of zero or low emissions vehicle on “specified roads” deemed invalid (Victoria)

A High Court decision concerning zero and low emission vehicle distance-based charge

A High Court decision concerning zero and low emission vehicle distance-based charge

The High Court of Australia held that Victoria’s zero and low emission vehicle (ZLEV) distance-based charge was invalid because it imposes an excise duty within the meaning of Section 90 of the Constitution, which is an exclusive power of the Commonwealth Parliament.

The case is: Vanderstock & Anor v The State of Victoria

Victoria’s ZLEV distance-based charge requires registered operators of ZLEVs to pay a charge for use of ZLEVs on “specified roads”—which is defined to include, in effect, all public roads in Australia.

The court found that the ZLEV road user charge was a tax on goods based on the close relationship between the tax and the use of ZLEVs, and on the demand for ZLEVs in particular.

Following the ruling, the government of New South Wales announced that it will study the constitutional implications for a planned road user charge in the state and will begin discussions with the other states and territories on the matter.


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