ANALYSIS

The great Aussie weekend is saved as Scott Morrison U-turns on electric vehicles

Prime Minister Scott Morrison taking a selfie. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Prime Minister Scott Morrison taking a selfie. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Hold on to your hard hats.

If the hi-vis wear has not been a dead giveaway that Australia is in election mode, just about everything else Prime Minister Scott Morrison has done this week has confirmed it.

He has introduced fresh Liberal candidates, looked under the bonnet of a hydrogen car, took time to enjoy COVID freedoms in Melbourne (with a public haircut, no less) and thoroughly slammed the opposition while trying to bury a remarkably shameless U-turn in policy.

And it is only Wednesday.

In case you blinked, the Morrison government has read the room on electric vehicles. It supports them - and wants more if them and more charging stations - despite campaigning at the last election that they would, under Labor, ruin the "great Aussie" weekend.

"But I didn't. That is just a Labor lie," Mr Morrison said when it was put to him that he campaigned against the electric vehicles in the last election.

Now, it is true that the Prime Minister said in "I have no problem with the adoption of these new technologies" and he also said, "We don't have a problem with electric vehicles."

But he also claimed "we facilitate it and we're part of it", when very little has been done to support the uptake of EVs in Australia since 2019. And the talk of wrecking weekends with EVs allegedly unable to tow trailers and caravans did what it was designed to do.

It was a very effective scare campaign.

Regardless, it is now 2021 and a point of difference has to be found.

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To boil it down, the government says it offers choice and Labor is trying to tell people what to do.

Is that true? We will get to that.

But first, here is a taste of what voters are going to hear until still un-dated election day.

"Labor wants to tell everybody what to do. They love telling people what to do, what cars to drive. I think Australians have had enough of governments telling them what to do, frankly," Mr Morrison told reporters on Tuesday.

"We've just been through two years of governments having to tell people what to do."

Well then, here it is. Freedom.

After world-record-beating lockdowns, vaccine mandates, mask wearing and far too many deaths, a focus group is barely needed to tell us that Australians are relishing the return, after racing to get vaccinated, of relative freedoms.

And it has opened the door to talking about trust again. The opposition is relishing it, just when the entanglement with the French President had put talk of election trust on the backburner.

Is Labor mandating EVs?

The opposition, under Bill Shorten, took to the last election a target of half of all new car sales to be electric by the end of the decade as well as a 50 per cent target for the government fleet by 2025.

Just don't mention that there was modelling for the government in 2019 that assumed electric vehicles would make up between a quarter and half of new car sales by 2030.

It seems now that targets are on the outer on both sides.

Asked on Tuesday, Mr Albanese said: "Well, we won't be putting a target. What we'll be doing is making electric vehicles cheaper and making it more attractive for people to take up electric vehicles."

In March this year, it pledged to reduce the cost of electric cars by exempting many of them from import tariffs and the fringe benefits tax. It says the cost on an average EV would be reduced by about $11,000.

Choice and incentives. So in fact, neither the government nor the opposition are forcing anyone to do anything with electric vehicles. And they are increasingly popular. Just too expensive.

Freedom indeed.

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This story Pre-election whiplash as Morrison U-turns on electric cars first appeared on The Canberra Times.