Scott Morrison has been accused of imitating the very policy he claimed would “end the weekend” just two years ago, denying he criticised electric vehicles despite his government ridiculing a Labor policy at the last election.
After the government waged a infamous campaign against Labor’s electric vehicle plan at the 2019 poll – claiming the cars would need to be charged by petrol generators or extension cords from apartments – Mr Morrison now says they are a “key building block” in the government’s net-zero plan.
But Labor has accused the Prime Minister of “lies” and “bulls–t”, as his national road trip and unofficial election campaign rolls through Melbourne.
“Labor loves interfering in your life. They love telling you what to do. They don’t like our plan because it doesn’t tax you,” Mr Morrison claimed on Tuesday.
“We’re putting Australians in the driver’s seat when it comes to our road to net zero by 2050.”
Electric vehicles plan
Continuing his week-long national road trip to spruik his energy credentials on Tuesday, Mr Morrison visited a Toyota plant in Melbourne to announce $178 million for the government’s Future Fuels Fund.
The cash aims to boost take up of hydrogen and electric vehicles by building charging and refuelling infrastructure, including incentives for home owners to build charging stations in their garage or businesses to include cleaner cars in their company fleets.
On Wednesday, the PM will announce a further $500 million for low-emissions technology, including carbon capture and storage, livestock feed, and improving solar panels or batteries.
But the cars announcement prompted ridicule from the Opposition, who pointed out Mr Morrison had famously railed against Labor’s 2019 policies by saying electric vehicles couldn’t tow a boat or take a family camping.
Under former leader Bill Shorten, Labor committed to a target of electric vehicles making up 50 per cent of new sales by 2030, tax breaks for company purchases, and pollution standards to encourage carmakers to produce cleaner cars.
Mr Morrison’s policy includes a projection of electric vehicles making up 30 per cent of sales by 2030, and as-yet-unspecified incentives for businesses to switch.
The PM claimed Labor’s 2019 policy “mandated” electric vehicles, which he said the government opposed on philosophical grounds, as he debuted a new “choice not mandates” slogan.
In fact, Labor actually had a non-binding “target” for electric vehicle sales.
“I don’t regret opposing Bill Shorten’s policy,” Mr Morrison said on Tuesday, after being reminded of his criticisms.
“I still don’t think it was a good policy because Labor wants to tell everybody what to do … I don’t have a problem with electric vehicles.”
However, a search through transcripts on Mr Morrison’s website shows that while he did express some support for electric vehicles in 2019, and raised specific concerns about Labor’s policies, he also made more general criticisms of electric vehicles.
‘War on the weekend’
In 2GB radio interview on April 5, 2019, Mr Morrison joked “Are you going to run the extension cord down from your fourth-floor window?”
He also noted “What about all these charging stations? How much is that going to cost?”
Mr Morrison’s plan on Tuesday included plans for more than 51,000 charging stations in businesses, homes and public areas.
On April 7, 2019, the PM told a press conference that electric cars “have a role to play increasingly in the vehicle fleet of Australia over the next decade”, and he had “no problem” with them.
But he then went on to claim “It’s not going to tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family”.
“Bill Shorten wants to end the weekend, when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles, where you’ve got Australians who love being out there in their four-wheel drives. He wants to say ‘see ya later’ to the SUV when it comes to the choices of Australians,” Mr Morrison said at the time.
The next day, April 8, the PM described Labor’s policy as “a war on the weekend, when it comes to the vehicle you drive and the vehicle you want to choose”.
In a 2GB interview on April 12, Mr Taylor claimed people would forget to plug in their electric vehicle to charge overnight.
He also joked in a Twitter meme in the same week that people going camping would need petrol generators to charge their electric cars.
When presented with his previous quotes by journalists at his Melbourne press conference, Mr Morrison called it a “Labor lie” he had opposed electric vehicles.
He said his policy had been facilitated by a “a massive change in the technology over the last few years”, which did not exist in 2019, as his reason for backing the policy now but opposing Labor’s earlier plan.
But as pointed out by Sean Kelly – a former Labor staffer to Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard who recently published a book critical of Mr Morrison – an assumption that technology will improve over time is actually a key part of the government’s net-zero plan.
The plan says “global technology trends” and “further technology breakthroughs” will be responsible for 30 per cent of the entire net-zero equation.
Labor calls ‘bulls–t’
Mr Shorten joked the PM “must read my policy book at night-time for ideas”, telling Channel Nine’s Today “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese called the announcement “completely inadequate” and said the Prime Minister’s “lies have put us at the back of the queue for electric vehicles”.
“Last election, Scott Morrison said electric vehicles would ‘end the weekend’. Today he’s saying electric vehicles are the future,” Mr Albanese tweeted just minutes after Mr Morrison’s press conference ended.
“He’ll say anything before an election and go back on it afterwards.”
Labor senator Murray Watt called Mr Morrison a “total bulls–t artist”.
Greens transport spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young claimed the government’s policy would “fail” to make electric vehicles more accessible and affordable.
“To properly accelerate uptake we need targets for vehicle emissions standards and subsidies that help put EVs on the road for everyday Australians,” she said.
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