The view from Billinudgel

Scott Morrison’s short-sighted defence of cars with grunt
Our leader remains in Luddite denial about electric vehicles


According to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, real Aussies drive utes, with a spare SUV to take the family camping at the weekend. Oink oink, vroom vroom! Bill Shorten and his ilk just don’t cut it – as Mathias Cormann might say, Shorten is just a girlie man. Revheads rule OK! Malcolm Turnbull tactfully described ScoMo’s rant as “peak crazy”, which it was. But perhaps even worse, it also was pig (grunt) ignorant.

Our prime minister apparently believes that electric vehicles are still in the most primitive stages of underdevelopment. But, as the Model-T Ford has evolved to the Toyota Hilux, electric cars have changed far more quickly, the surge driven by high-end technology and insatiable demand.

Nowadays, electric cars can outpace Ferraris and pull heavy caravans. And if the punters want utes, electric utes will quickly be provided. Indeed, Toyota itself has predicted the end of the internal combustion engine by 2050.

The change will be both swift and irrevocable; in much of Europe electric is rapidly becoming the preferred option, and here in Australia, the government’s own projections expect somewhere between 25 and 50 per cent of new vehicles to be electric by 2030. Shorten’s target is at the top end, but is by no means fanciful.

It may well be that in some rural and regional areas there will be resistance, but far more than half the nation’s drivers live in the cities, for which electrics – quiet, pollution free and cheaper to run – are ideal.

Of course, our leader remains in Luddite denial, as he so often is. He ridiculed Shorten’s claim that vehicles could charge in about eight minutes; not only is the technology already available, Morrison’s own government is funding the infrastructure to implement it.

Shorten wants to go to the next step – not only importing electric vehicles but also manufacturing them in part or whole in Australia. This is a very big ask given the demise of the highly subsidised motor industry in the past, and economic purists will reject the idea on the spot; but the displaced workers in Geelong, Elizabeth and Altona, among others, might be more enthusiastic.

However, that is for the future – the present is that electric vehicles are coming, ready or not. Obviously there will be problems and glitches along the way, but other countries are readily overcoming them – is ScoMo suggesting that Australia is unable to do so? Does he really want us to be stuck in the age of the gas guzzler?

Given his administration’s refusal to take science seriously when it comes to climate change, it is hardly surprising that he yearns for a past when things were less complicated. Perhaps he really desires to go back to the simple times of the horse and buggy, and his vision is not for machines he cannot comprehend, but for a future when transport relies on flying pigs. Now there’s grunt for you.

Mungo MacCallum

Mungo MacCallum is a political journalist and commentator. His books include Run Johnny Run, Poll Dancing, and Punch and Judy. Visit his blog, The View from Billinudgel.

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