It’s Monday night, I’m watching the news, and Scott Morrison is wearing a classic hard hat and hi vis vest combo. He’s talking about how all Australians want a vehicle with – and I quote – “ a bit of grunt”. Labor is going to take away our grunt with electric cars and thus start – again, I quote – “a war on the weekend”. This is apparently the most important part of the whole half hour press conference.
I’m going to preface this by saying I am clearly not the sort of Australian that Scott has in mind here – I’m a millennial that drives a Ford Fiesta, and am partial to a good soy latte. But is “grunt” really the most important thing in this debate?
Last week, Labor announced their shiny new climate policy, with one of the centrepieces being the goal of having 50% of new cars sold be electric by 2030. A report from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that “battery electric cars generate half the emissions of the average comparable gasoline car, even when pollution from battery manufacturing is accounted for”, so it’s really not a bad idea. After all, short of a world leader with a bad haircut dropping a nuclear bomb, climate change is far and away the biggest threat to our lives and future.
Labor doing pretty much anything this close to an election was always going to get a reaction from the Government, but what really sent them into a tizzy was a radio interview. When Bill Shorten was asked by Kyle and Jackie O how long it would take to charge an electric car, he replied “it can take eight to ten minutes, depending on your charge. It depends how flat your battery is.”
Almost immediately, the Liberals put out ads saying that this was garbage – the cars would have to charge overnight – and started up with the “war on the weekend” line I mentioned earlier. They went so far as to call it Shorten’s “birthday cake moment”.
Now, I’m personally a master of picking terrible hills to die on, but this one was particularly bad for the Coalition. Why? Well, while Labor was being roasted about their incredibly short charging time estimates, the internet was quick to dig up Josh Frydenberg claiming electric cars could be charged in less than 30 minutes, Angus Taylor claiming you’d be able to get 400kms with 15 minutes of charge, and Lucy Turnbull tweeting about an 8 minute charge time.
The 8-10 minute estimate was not the only thing that Labor had gotten from the Government, because guess what? Morrison Government modelling has forecast that with their own climate policy, electric cars would make up 25-50% of new car sales by 2030, which is almost identical to Labor’s goal. Yep, they’ve essentially been slamming their own policy.
It’s good to see climate change being brought to the front of political discussion, but is this seriously how we’re going to do it? We’ve yet to see a solid, long term climate policy from any government, and every single year we’re smashing temperature records. Are we really going to fight this election campaign on how long it takes to charge an electric car?
Election campaigns are always long and stupid, and we’re only going to see more of these sorts of antics once an election date is finally called. I have absolutely no doubt that we’ll see some more headlines that look like they could have come straight from the Betoota Advocate before we finally head to the polls, but remember this: let’s not get bogged down in the small stuff.