Prime minister Scott Morrison has been caught out denying he ridiculed electric vehicles (EVs) in the lead up to the 2019 federal election.
Electric vehicles are back on the political agenda thanks to the new Labor EV policy statement released on Tuesday at the ALP national conference, which has shifted from a target of 50% EV sales by 2030 to a commitment to slash import tariffs and fringe benefits tax for electric cars.
But it seems that the prime minister has a short memory when it comes to his own past comments about zero-emissions transport.
At a press conference announcing the Coalition government will create jobs for Australians by creating a guided missile factory in a $1 billion collaboration with defence giant Raytheon in South Australia, the prime minister fielded a question about comments he made in 2019 about electric cars.
At the time, the prime minister ridiculed Labor’s ambitious EV target, suggesting they would “end the weekend.”
“I’ll tell you what, it’s not going to tow your trailer, it’s not going to tow your boat,” he said at the time. The Driven has shared many stories about electric vehicles towing, and there are no technical limitations other than adequate roll-out of charging infrastructure because as with combustion engine vehicles, towing uses more energy.
Now, Morrison – who also mocked the Tesla big battery as being about as useful as the Big Banana, or the Big Prawn – has denied he ever suggested EVs were not suitable for Australian drivers.
“I didn’t ridicule that technology, that’s good technology,” he said.
“We actually have policies to support that technology,” he continued, ignoring the fact the Coalition’s future fuels strategy pushes non-pluggable hybrids that cannot drive without burning petrol as better than electric cars in abating carbon emissions based on erroneous calculations.
Shadow minister for climate change and energy Chris Bowen grasped the opportunity to juxtapose the prime minister’s comments today with those he made in 2019:
Can you believe anything this man says?
Scott Morrison on EVs: Then and Now… pic.twitter.com/1jStjrN347
— Chris Bowen (@Bowenchris) April 1, 2021
The Morrison government may have since admitted that electric vehicles can tow, but this doesn’t ignore the fact it is still heavily criticised for its poor stance on electric vehicle adoption.
Australia’s lack of action on electric vehicles has most recently been criticised by Volkswagen Australia boss Michael Barsch, who last Wednesday called Australia a “third world” for electric vehicle policy.
But Barsch’s view on the new Labor policy is much more optimistic.
On Thursday, Barsch praised Labor’s new EV policy commitment in an interview with ABC’s Fran Kelly, saying, “This policy of the Labour government of eliminating that 5% duty differential is a really positive step towards helping bring cars from Europe into Australia in a market at a competitive price.”
Barsch says that because Australia ranks 84th in the world in terms of fuel quality, carmakers shunt 20-year-old technology here, creating big margins for the carmakers and a false sense of what the latest cars should cost for drivers (of course has the added effect of leaving drivers with a sense that electric cars sit far above the combustion engine car market).
He added that if Volkswagen were able to bring its ID.3 and ID.4 to Australia they would sit in the high $40,000 – low $50,000 price bracket, which is currently the bottom end of the electric vehicle market (only the MG ZS EV sits below $45,000).
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.