Apr 11, 2019

Opinion – Electric Vehicle scare puts Morrison at odds with his party and Treasurer – The Australian – Thursday, 11 April 2019

 

 

If misrepresentation could generate energy, Scott Morrison’s inflated claims about Labor’s policy on electric vehicles would light up the world. The Prime Minister’s hysterical response to Labor’s announce­ment of a plan to remove obstacles to the take-up of EVs proves what many Australians must already suspect — he’s not much of a future thinker.

Global car manufacturers are moving away from internal combustion engines and towards new technologies, including cars powered by electricity and hydrogen. The Labor Party is not responsible for this shift. The automotive industry is driving change in response to the huge technological advances and the need to reduce carbon emissions and pollution.

EVs are popular in many nations, but Australia is falling behind the rest of the world. We are unprepared for a shift that is already happening and, worse still, this government has no plan to back Australian industry to exploit these technological shifts in our economic interest. This is despite the fact the government’s own policy is based on EVs representing up to half of new car sales by 2030 — the same as Labor.

Labor’s EV policy addresses what is already happening. Our position mirrors that of Josh Frydenberg. In January last year the Treasurer, in a newspaper column, called for action to address barriers to the take-up of EVs including their cost, their range and the shortage of recharging stations.

In that Sydney Morning Herald piece, Frydenberg said EVs would provide benefits for consumers and that there would be 250,000 on Australian roads by 2025.

Noting that manufacturers such as Volvo, General Motors, Jaguar, Volkswagen and Land Rover were moving away from the internal combustion engine, he called for “better co-ordination of existing and future activities around research and development, charging infrastructure planning, vehicle fleet targets and financial incentives”.

These are the very measures in Labor’s EV policy.

A Labor government would ensure $200 million was invested in building recharging stations across the country. We’d ensure that EVs represented half of new leases and purchases in the government’s car fleet by 2025. We’d give businesses a tax break with 20 per cent depreciation in the first year if they chose EVs.

None of this is revolutionary.

On January 21 the NSW Liberal government announced an EV policy that includes buying EVs for the government fleet and investing in fast-charging EV points in community carparks. So Morrison’s attacks on Labor’s EV policy don’t fit with the position of his own party or Treasurer. As in so many policy areas, the Prime Minister can’t resist a scare campaign.

Even more pathetic is the fact the government has disputed Bill Shorten’s recent comment that technology allows for EVs to be charged in eight to 10 minutes.

The Opposition Leader is right. We know this because in October last year, Morrison’s Energy Minister, Angus Taylor, issued a media release boasting the government was investing in a rolling out of an “ultra-rapid charging network” — Coalition government-funded ­stations that could, in as little as eight minutes, charge up an EV enough to travel 200km.

The EV industry offers great opportunities for prosperity and job creation in our resources sector. For example, given EVs require four times as much copper as conventional vehicles, it’s no coincidence that BHP is ramping up copper production. It is even using EVs in its copper mining operations at Olympic Dam in South Australia.

The other issue raised about Labor’s EV policy is whether increasing EV use will overburden our power grid while we are seeking to transit to greater use of alternative energy sources such as pumped hydro power.

Frydenberg doesn’t think so. He wrote last year: “The Finkel review found electric vehicle charging can be ‘relatively easily managed’ and (the Australian Energy Market Operator) has said something similar.’’

Nonetheless, Labor’s EV policy takes the issue of supply seriously. We understand it is critical that Australian businesses and consumers have access to reliable and affordable power supplies.

That’s why Labor’s EV policy includes a commitment to convene a national electric vehicle summit to bring together representatives from across the planning, energy and transport sectors to make sure that we have an ­electricity network fit for purpose. When it comes to EVs, the last thing we need is more scare campaigns and shouting from the Prime Minister. We need a sensible plan that allows our nation not only to meet the challenges of technological shifts in the automotive sector but also to harness them in our national economic interest. Labor has one.

In the words of Frydenberg: “A global revolution in electric vehicles is under way and with the right preparation, planning and policies, Australian consumers are set to be the big beneficiaries.”

 

Anthony Albanese is the opposition infrastructure, transport and regional development spokesman.