The Murdoch media has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks as former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull, along with world-renowned climate scientist Michael Mann, lambast it about the misinformation it publishes and broadcasts about climate change.
The same accusation could also be levelled at its reporting and commentary on renewables, particularly wind energy. But the most surprising target of its vitriol and myth-making in recent years has been electric vehicles and the efforts to clean up Australia’s filthy transport fleet.
Consumers might well ask themselves how it is that Australia ended up as a dumping ground for dirty vehicles that cannot be sold in most places around the world; the emissions of these vehicles are so polluting they kill nearly 2,000 Australians a year and are so inefficient they add about $600 a year in additional fuel costs to each vehicle.
The Murdoch media is one answer. It slammed the federal Coalition’s tentative efforts to introduce fuel standards as a “carbon tax on wheels,” which was enough to stop conservative politicians in their tracks, and it was a willing mouthpiece for the arrant nonsense about EVs spread by the Coalition government in the lead up to the last election.
They are still at it. And it’s come to the attention of international experts quoted in a recent Bloomberg article “Even Tesla can’t end Australia’s hostility to electric vehicles” who note that even tractors outsell EVs by a factor of two to one in Australia.
The set against EVs taken by conservatives and the Murdoch media is hard to understand because they are brilliant pieces of technology. But to conservatives they signify change and progress, which they confuse with progressives, so it must be a bad thing. More than that, they threaten the business models of their biggest supporters, the fossil fuel industry.
In an already rotten media environment, one recent article stands out for being so utterly wrong and hateful at the same time. It appeared in the NSW-based Daily Telegraph earlier this month, and was reprinted in full in Queensland’s Courier Mail, the West Australian, the Countryman, and even the very far right-wing Catallaxy Files.
The author is Vikki Campion, a former journalist, political media minder and now partner of former Nationals leader and deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, and a regular columnist for the Tele. This article achieves something quite unique – setting a new high bar for prejudice and misinformation about EVs in a single piece of work. Which is no mean effort, given the competition.
What is particularly striking is the sheer hatred of the sort of people who Campion believes buy EVs, or what she calls “coal-fired” vehicles. They are not “the stacking-bricks hands-like-sandpaper types” or “those of common clay” that she claims to represent, more the “kind of look-at-me-I-am-awake-to-the-world types.” She claims EV drivers are on a “hip crusade”, whatever that might be, and are “urbanites who want to blow $72,000 on a Tesla.” She may be surprised to learn that Tesla is popular in regional areas too.
Clearly, Campion has been watching too much Sky After Dark or believing what she reads in the Tele. But while the language and emotion is quite something, the “factual” claims made by Campion are something else.
“Electric vehicles themselves are manufactured in China using Australian coal.”
In 2020, hardly any of the 6,900 EVs sold in Australia were made in China. Most were made in the US (Tesla), South Korea (Hyundai), and Japan (Leaf).
“While the odd Tesla might come from airfreight on jet fuel, most are shipped over here using fossil fuels.”
As were all the 530,000 petrol and 290,000 diesel cars sold in Australia last year.
“Unable to tow a trailer, horses, boat, camper or caravan even to the closest charger in the bush.”
“It will be decades before your average Australian, let alone the more vulnerable, will be able to afford an EV.”
It may be just a few years until EV prices reach parity, and just a few more years until car makers stop making petrol cars. And of course, there will be the increasingly popular second-market and fleet owners, for whom EVs may already deliver superior returns.
“If Labor were serious about them, they would wipe the luxury car tax altogether.”
Um, why does removing luxury tax on Mercedes and BMW petrol cars help make EVs more affordable?
“New, cheap Chinese-made EV’s [sic] that are not designed for the rough conditions of Australian roads, and few of which are ANCAP tested, could mean a trade-off between safer, better-built, low-emitting cars such as hybrids, or cheap but dangerous, zero-emission vehicles which are responsible for vastly more emissions in their lifetime than a petrol car.”
Sigh, where to start. It’s true, Tesla and MG are now making EVs in China for Australia delivery, but they are not cheap, and they are ANCAP tested. And they score very well. In some cases, the (Chinese made) EV versions rate better than the petrol ones. All research shows lifetime emissions of EVs are well below petrol cars. There is no evidence that any EVs are built more poorly than petrol cars.
“A cheap EV meeting a roo on the road at night between Tenterfield and Toowoomba will bring a whole new meaning to terror.”
As might a meeting of any cheap petrol car with a roo.
“No car manufacturer or insurance body believes there will not be petrol cars on Australian roads in nine years.”
No one has ever claimed there won’t be petrol cars on the road in nine years. The average life of a car is 11-12 years, so they will be around for a while longer.
“Petrol engines may be phased out of development by then … “
Hooray, you got it!
“… But in 2034 those of the common clay will still be towing a boat with a 2029 model Toyota HiLux.”
Some might, but most of those of the “common clay”, as Biblical and patronising as that might sound, are going to be delighted with the sheer power, acceleration, range and off-grid power tool charging capabilities of the Rivian, Cybertruck or even the Ford electric F150, or perhaps the electric Hummer.
“Electric cars have a place in populous cities with upgraded energy grids where people are driving short trips and will never afford their own home so may as well blow coin on an expensive set of wheels.”
Hang on, you just said no petrol cars will be made after 2030! I’ve done more than 50,000kms in 18 months in my EV, including at least five round trips of 2,000kms each.
“There is not a single model on the market that would apply to Labor’s policy that could be used for any heavy lifting in regional Australia in either distance or pulling power.”
See above: Rivian, Tesla Cybertruck, Ford F150, Hummer.
“Only Tesla has a heavy utility in development.”
See above, Rivian and Ford and Hummer.
“But it speaks to Labor’s understanding of the bush that none would be able to afford it.”
Actually, the Cybertrucks and the Rivians may not be that much more expensive than current imported ute models in Australia, like the popular twin-cab Hilux, which sells for around $70,000. And for tradies who buy them on lease, the lower running costs will mean it will be a financial no-brainer.
“A new all-wheel-drive Tesla would, according to car buffs, perform on jagged bulldust, but who will pay $200,000 for a luxury SUV only to whack on a bullbar, spotties, tow-bar, roof racks and whack it around dirt roads to pony camp?”
Jagged bulldust? Sounds exciting, and some of it might have been used for this article. Yes, you can pay nearly $200,000 for a luxury electric or petrol EV, but most electric utes are not going to be anywhere near $200,000.
“Look at all the cars on the road and ask how cooking dinner, washing the kid’s clothes and charging every damn car in Australia is going to work on a grid near-collapse now.”
Actually, bi-directional charging from EVs will probably mean that we have a more stable and better-resourced grid than we have now.
Let’s call it the Catweazle approach to modern technology, and let’s thank our lucky stars people like this did not have such a huge megaphone when the first cars hit the road a century ago, or for the rollout of planes, the phone, the mobile, the internet, or even the modern toaster.
And judging by the 509 comments posted on Campion’s Tele article when we last looked, it seems many of her readers agree with her, apart from the single self-described “lefty” who was brave enough to point out that if conservatives were really that scared of new technologies, they could be reassured by the fact that EVs came before petrol cars, way back in the 1850s. That didn’t go down so well.
But it’s a theme that runs deep. Let’s not forget that it was Coalition ministers – and particularly prime minister Scott Morrison and energy minister Angus Taylor – who made up most of the nonsense about EVs that Campion trumpeted here, including that they would “end the weekend”. And they have also said some incredibly stupid things about wind and solar, and have compared big batteries to the Big Banana, the Big Prawn, and the Kardashians.
Which makes it incredibly unlikely that they will wake up to the fact that Australia has already become a dumping ground for old technologies, adding significant costs from burning more fuel in inefficient engines, killing thousands with barely mitigated pollutants, and putting the country’s energy security at risk by relying wholly on imported fuels.
Stupid is as stupid does, said the fictional Forrest Gump film character who made a fortune from investing in Apple, which he thought was a fruit company. Which gives me an idea about a battery storage or EV brand that might win over conservatives. Let’s call it Banana.