It’s becoming alarming. Every day our Prime Minister becomes more verbose, more shouty, more insistent. The old-fashioned word ‘blatherskite’ comes to mind. Listen to him as he fronts journalists, answers questions in Question Time, or delivers his characteristic off-the-cuff oratory on any subject he chooses, from protestors to carbon capture and storage to electric cars.
In a cute appraisal in The Guardian
you can read how Sarah Martin mocked his electric car approach with these acerbic words
In a galling pivot, Scott Morrison hopes he can peek under the bonnet of an EV and be accepted as a convert.
Not so long ago he said Labor’s electric cars policy would ‘end the weekend’, and now he’s spruiking his own plan, but there’s no substance to it.
It’s hard to say which element of Scott Morrison’s new electric vehicle strategy is most galling. If you missed the unveiling on Tuesday, there’s not much to catch up on, given the strategy has all the substance of a Corn Thin.
The Coalition’s “strategy” for electric vehicle take-up contains $178m of government spending on EV infrastructure but no new policies, just like its “Australian Way” plan to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. It rebuffs calls for vehicle emissions standards and provides no market signal to incentivise take-up – the two measures viewed by experts as the most important to drive change.
But while a policy document three years in the making that is entirely bereft of substance is certainly offensive, it is nowhere near as galling as the way in which Morrison expects voters to forgive and forget the Coalition’s position on electric vehicles ahead of the 2019 election.
As he unveiled the government’s new clean car policy that embraced electric cars, Morrison attempted to deflect accusations of hypocrisy by denying he had attacked electric vehicles before the 2019 federal election when he had insisted Labor would “end the weekend”
The government has already ruled out subsidising the expansion of electric and hybrid vehicles through rebates or tax breaks, saying it expected only 30% of new sales to be EVs by 2030 – a date by which a growing number of countries plan to ban altogether the sale of new petrol and diesel cars.
The “future fuels and vehicles strategy” instead includes $178m of new funding, mostly for new EV and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and to help businesses set up charging stations for fleets. It said the government would “co-invest with industry” to install an estimated 50,000 smart chargers in homes. Under questioning at a press conference in Melbourne, Morrison denied he had criticised EV technology before the last election. But the records show that at that time he had insisted: ”battery-powered cars would ‘not tow your trailer’; ‘not tow your boat’; ‘not get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family’.”
Morrison claimed his criticism had been limited to Labor’s then-policy, not the technology itself, and that he did not regret saying EVs would “end the weekend”.
“I don’t have a problem with electric vehicles, I have a problem with governments telling people what to do and what vehicles they should drive and where they should drive them, which is what [former opposition leader] Bill Shorten’s plan was,” Morrison said at Toyota’s hydrogen centre in suburban Altona.
“I’m not going to put up the price of petrol [for] families and make them buy electric vehicles, and walk away from the things they have. That is not the Liberal way and the Nationals way.”
The Shorten-era Labor policy was not to tell people what vehicle they should drive, require anyone to buy an EV or put up the price of petrol. It included a non-binding target of 50% new car sales being EVs by 2030 and the promise of a vehicle emissions standard to reduce the average carbon pollution of the national car fleet.
Morrison stressed the government would not “be forcing Australians out of the car they want to drive or penalising those who can least afford it through bans or taxes. Just as Australians have taken their own decision to embrace rooftop solar at the highest rate in the world, when new vehicle technologies are cost-competitive, Australians will embrace them too”.
The expansion of rooftop solar – which, according to the Clean Energy Council, has now led to 3m systems being installed across the country – was encouraged for more than a decade through federal and state incentives and subsidies.
The government vehicle strategy suggests its approach will have only a limited impact as a climate policy. It is projected to cut greenhouse gas emissions by just 8m tonnes – less than 2% of the national annual total – over the next 14 years.
Transport emissions are nearly 20% of the national total, were increasing rapidly before Covid-19 lockdowns and are projected to escalate in the years ahead.
Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, said the future policy was “another pamphlet, rather than a serious announcement”. He said a Labor government would make EVs cheaper by removing import and fringe benefits tax. “I think people will look at Scott Morrison today and this announcement and just shake their head and say, ‘What’s changed?’,’This is a guy who says he’s about new technology. Yet he’s resisted it.”
The energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, said the government’s strategy of helping install charging infrastructure, rather than phasing out fossil fuel cars, was about helping motorists “embrace the increasing range of technologies available to keep them moving in an informed and fair way”. He claimed credit for the number of low emissions vehicle models available in Australia increasing by 20% over the past eight months, but did not explain how the government’s policy had contributed to this.
Car manufacturers across the globe have released a wave of new EV models as governments have announced emissions limits for passenger cars and future bans on fossil fuel cars. Industry representatives say Australians have fewer options than comparable countries due to a lack of policy support.
Once more, Australians face the risk of being left behind. What’s new!