The Politics    Tuesday, November 9, 2021

The end of ending the weekend

By Rachel Withers

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison driving a hydrogen-fuelled car around a Toyota test track in Melbourne. Image © William West / AAP Image

Prime Minister Scott Morrison drives a hydrogen-fuelled car around a Toyota test track in Melbourne. Image © William West / AAP Image

Morrison’s rhetorical backflip on EVs is gobsmacking, even for him

The 2022 election season has unofficially begun – on the day that a 2021 election became impossible – with the government announcing its electric vehicle policy, and Labor re-announcing its high-speed rail plan. The Coalition’s “Future Fuels and Vehicles Strategy” has been widely derided as a “fizzer”, not least because the policy – to fund 50,000 charging stations, with the goal that 30 per cent of new car sales be EVs by 2030 – does not include subsidies, tax incentives, sales targets or minimum emission standards; anything, in short, that would make EVs more affordable. But it’s the breathtaking backflip that has made Scott Morrison’s announcement truly worthy of derision. As many in the Opposition and media were quick to point out, the PM famously warned in 2019 that Labor’s EV policy would “end the weekend”, incorrectly claiming that the vehicles could not “tow your trailer” and questioning how people in apartments would be able to charge them, along with a ridiculous scare campaign centred on utes. Appearing on RN Breakfast this morning, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers labelled the U-turn embarrassing. “How humiliating for a prime minister who said electric vehicles would end the weekend,” he said. “[He’s] now trying to pretend, all of a sudden, because we’re on the eve of an election, that he cares about electric vehicles.” So how exactly does Morrison intend to pull off this brazen backflip, from claiming EVs would ruin the Australian way of life to spruiking his own highly insufficient EV plan? The answer is with a shamelessness that outstrips many of his earlier instances of barefaced lying.

Announcing his latest climate “plan” at the Toyota hydrogen production centre in Melbourne – rightly infuriating local Labor MP Tim Watts – Morrison repeated his new favourite slogans: “technology not taxes” and “choices not mandates”. “Our plans are all about supporting those choices, facilitating those choices,” he said proudly, insisting his government’s policy would not be forcing people into electric cars – something Labor’s policy, it almost goes without saying, simply would not have done. But when asked about his earlier suggestions that EVs would “end the weekend”, and whether he stood by them, Morrison simply lied, with a brashness that left many gobsmacked. “I don’t have a problem with electric vehicles,” Morrison said, claiming his issue was only “with governments telling people what to do, and what vehicles they should drive, and where they should drive them”, as he alleged former Labor leader Bill Shorten had wanted to do.

Even when a reporter argued that Morrison couldn’t honestly say he hadn’t attacked EVs back in 2019, Morrison claimed he could, “because that’s true” (“black is white,” he might as well have said). Not even his own words being quoted back at him (about extension cords out apartment windows) could stop him. Morrison insisted his change in position was justified because there had been a “massive change in the technology” over the past few years (there has not), before embarking on a rant about the “game-changer” that is hydrogen, and circling back to Labor, insisting the Opposition had been going to “force you to go and move to a vehicle where technology had not arrived where we are at now, and where it will go in the future”. Because apparently technological development wasn’t always an inevitability, but it is now.

Today’s falsehoods from Morrison share a likeness with those of former US president Donald Trump, especially in the manner in which the PM attempted to twist his way out of earlier comments – footage of which is insultingly easy to find. They come with the added insult of Morrison wilfully misrepresenting the Opposition’s policy as a “mandate” (it was a target, with incentives to boost uptake, which experts and the Electric Vehicles Council say is what’s needed), while suggesting it is Labor that is fibbing. “That is just a Labor lie,” he said, speaking of comments he made on the public record.

Morrison’s clearly false comments have put many journalists, with their reticence to use the word “liar”, in a difficult spot. (Although to its credit, the short title of the Australian Financial Review’s liveblog was actually “PM lies” for a time today.) We can no doubt expect more of these gobsmacking moments in the election campaign ahead, as the PM continues his shameless pivot. Morrison may not even realise he is doing it, as former Monthly Today columnist Sean Kelly observes in his new book, The Game. In an apt quote floating around Twitter, Kelly writes: “He never feels, in himself, insincere or untruthful, because he always means exactly what he says; it is just that he means it only in the moment he is saying it.” Unfortunately for Morrison, his insincerity on climate is becoming more and more apparent to everyone else.

Listen to The Politics Podcast, with Rachel Withers


“We’ve been abandoned from day one.”

Wandella resident Graeme Freedman, like many Black Summer bushfire survivors, is still living in a caravan, facing “bureaucracy-induced trauma”.

“Please prioritise this ahead of anything else Liberal Party!”

Leaked emails show that former Liberal Party powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan directed a “naive” former staffer to complete factional work on the job.

How Crown Casino became too big to fail
Earlier this year, a blistering royal commission report found that Crown Casino in Melbourne had links to organised crime and enabled money laundering. Despite that, Crown has managed to keep its licence. Today, Tim Costello on the relationship between politics and gambling.

The cost to taxpayers of a workplace investigation into Education Minister Alan Tudge’s extramarital affair with and treatment of his former press secretary.

“The Coalition and Labor face pressure to offer tax cuts to 10 million Australians in the run-up to the next election, punching a $15 billion hole in a budget still mired in deficit by the coronavirus recession.”

The major parties are considering whether to again extend the low- and middle-income tax offset, with its removal creating a $1080 tax “increase” for those who earn less than $126,000 per year.

The list

“In On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, Nelson offers a corrective – a reclamation of freedom’s ‘remaining evacuated possibilities’ for her wayward allies. Freedom and obligation are not opposites, she argues, or even different sides of the same coin. Rather they are entangled in a Gordian knot. Freedom needs obligation’s constraint. Obligation requires the freedom to authentically care. Try to pull these two apart and the culture unravels. To stick together, we must embrace the knottiness, tolerate the intractable and ease into indeterminacy.”

“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! … 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.”

“Thousands of women fighting for justice after being maimed or otherwise harmed by transvaginal mesh implants have been warned by the company they are suing to take a one-time offer of $27 million or risk getting nothing at all.”

Rachel Withers

Rachel Withers is the contributing editor of The Politics.

@rachelrwithers

The Politics

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking to the media in Sydney today. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

Sunk cost

Was Labor’s modest deficit gap really worth two days of tantrums?

Image of Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese leaves after speaking to the media during a press conference in Perth yesterday. Image © Lukas Coch / AAP Images

At what cost?

The press pack is laser focused on something voters don’t really care about

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Palmerston, near Darwin, today. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

Alpha-beta soup

A toxic op-ed about Morrison being an “alpha male” fails to grasp why women are abandoning the Coalition

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison after the Liberal Party campaign launch in Brisbane yesterday. Image © Mick Tsikas / AAP Images

The loosest unit

The Coalition doesn’t know how much its superannuation housing policy will raise prices, nor does it care


From the front page

cartoon:In light of recent events

In light of recent events

Who’s preferencing whom?

Detail of cover of Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

Ghost notes: Simon Tedeschi’s ‘Fugitive’

A virtuoso memoir of music and trauma, and his experiences as a child prodigy, from the acclaimed Australian pianist

Image of Steve Toltz

The quip and the dead: Steve Toltz’s ‘Here Goes Nothing’

A bleakly satirical look at death and the afterlife from the wisecracking author of ‘A Fraction of the Whole’

Composite image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese speaking during the first leaders’ debate on April 20, 2022. Image © Jason Edwards / AAP Images

Election special: Who should you vote for?

Undecided about who to vote for in the upcoming federal election? Take our quiz to find out your least-worst option!