By Ben Wilson
After returning from a disastrous appearance at COP 26, Scott Morrison has unveiled his plan to embrace electric vehicles. This is not as it might appear. It is a ploy designed to give the embattled prime minister credibility with an election on the horizon.
The political machine knows that the Australian public wants recognition and decisive action on the threat of global warming. The electric car policy is designed to put out the illusion that the government is listening. Political reality has called for a makeover.
Morrison’s plan, it is claimed, will spend $250 million on projects for “future fuels,” which will create more than 2,600 jobs. This is to be matched by private funding. Morrison said that this will lead to 1.7 million electric vehicles on Australian roads by 2030.
It would be something if it were true. But it isn’t. The $250 million contribution is only a little of what is needed to meet the stated ambition. Then it is in the form of subsidies to private companies. This brings memories of Job Keeper. The Morrison government’s record doesn’t give confidence that the subsidies will be used properly.
There is more to cast doubt on this scheme. Much of it is in providing 50,000 households and 400 businesses with access to charging infrastructure. There will be barely 1,000 public charging stations. Incentives will be provided to encourage larger businesses to shift to electric fleets.
Most Australians will be left out. Electric vehicles are to be made into a luxury for the rich. The number of electric vehicles will be far less than the promised 1.7 million.
The other part of the project is to upgrade the electricity delivery network to deal with the shift to charging stations. Taxpayer money will be used to finance the power companies.
Nothing is being done to build Australia’s capacity to build electric vehicles or to reduce the exorbitant cost of buying one. They will remain out of reach for most people.
Business has not taken kindly to the Morrison plan either. The Electric Vehicles Council (EVC) has called it a fizzer that is a missed opportunity because it does not include any subsidies, tax incentives or sales targets. Nor does it include mandated fuel efficiency targets which require manufacturers to sell vehicles with a combined level of emissions below a certain benchmark. These are standards long used in Europe and the United States.
The clumsy public relations exercise may backfire. It reveals a shifting inconsistency. Yesterday Scott Morrison branded electric vehicles as no good. Today he proclaims himself a convert. Few will believe it. He is looking more vulnerable than ever.