As I have said here before, I used to think Tony Abbott was the worst liar I hd ever seen in federal parliament1, 2, but he pales into insignificance compared to the appalling liar that is Scott Morrison3, 4. The recent backflip with regard to electric vehicles has once again exposed this despicable lying so clearly that nobody but his most ardent apologists (and there are a few even outside the Murdoch zoo) will be able to excuse it.
In the 2019 election campaign, the Labor Party’s ‘Cleaner Transport Future’ policy was going to aim for half of all new cars to be electric vehicles (EVs, not hybrids) by 2030, and to lift car emission standards in a bid to cut pollution. It also would require half of all federal government fleet purchases to be fully electric by 2025 and for all Commonwealth-owned or leased office buildings to have charging capacity ‘where appropriate’. At the time, the transport sector was equal second, along with stationary energy, behind the electricity generation sector in its amount of emissions. As they said at the time: “Cleaner cars and transport aren’t just good for the environment – they are cheaper to run. … But Australia lags behind our competitor countries, whether it’s in electric vehicle take-up, or vehicle fuel efficiency, … We’re at risk of being left behind.” At the time, EV market share in Australia was 0.2%, behind that in Norway (49%), Iceland (19%), Sweden (8.2%), and California (7.8%)5.
Prior to this announcement from the Labor Party, in January 2018, Liberal Josh Frydenberg listed a few technological advances which have appeared in the last few years and stated that “there is another area of exciting technological disruption with real economic and environmental benefits that is yet to really take off here at home”. And that was electric vehicles. He added: “Capitalising on a declining cost curve, new investments in recharging infrastructure and significant improvements in battery capacity, the industry has now real momentum in Europe, Asia and North America, which will inevitably be replicated here.”6
In October 2018, Energy Minister Angus Taylor spruiked the benefits of an ultra-rapid charging network along the major driving routes from Brisbane to Adelaide and around Sydney and Melbourne, and in Western Australia. The government was kicking the tin to the tune of $6 million to Chargefox Pty Ltd to develop 21 ultra-rapid charging stations powered by (I kid you not) renewable energy. This network is expected to have no more than 200 kilometres between stations, and the charging stations will provide a top-up charge adding another 400 kilometres range within 15 minutes (this comes from an Angus Taylor media release since removed)7.
So, what did the coalition do, when the Labor Party had the temerity to develop a policy to increase the uptake of electric vehicles? They lied as they always do. The coalition backflipped on their previous spruiking of electric vehicles and in Angus Taylor’s case, attempted to hide their previous efforts. Their bizarre responses included the following:
Angus Taylor posted a meme (pinched from One Notion senator Malcolm Roberts) on Twitter showing an electric car plugged into a petrol generator on the back of a truck with the caption ‘Camping with Bill Shorten’8.
Taylor also posted a video from the television car show Top Gear, about the limitations of battery life and driving range of electric vehicles. That Top Gear video was shown several years ago as having been faked8.
Prime Minister Morrison was recorded in a doorstop as stating an electric vehicle “won’t tow your trailer. It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family”9, 10. This was a lie; electric vehicles are more powerful than most internal combustion-engine vehicles.
Morrison also said: “[Then opposition leader] Bill Shorten wants to end the weekend when it comes to his policy on electric vehicles where you’ve got Australians who love being out there in their four-wheel drives11.…He wants to say ‘see you later to the SUV'”12, 13. This is also a lie. Again he is apparently unaware of the fact that, in 2017, a souped up Tesla SUV beat a $US530,000 Lamborghini Aventador SV, one of the fastest sports cars on the planet, in a standard quarter mile drag race. It likely also set a speed record for an SUV14.
Morrison continued his drivel on his favourite radio station, 2GB, where he knows he can get away with his constant lying: “What about all these charging stations, how much is that going to cost? I mean if you have an electric car and you live in an apartment, are you going to run the extension cord down from your fourth-floor window?”15
Morrison went on with “What Australians have always expressed a preference for is the vehicles that have a bit of grunt and a bit of power, because they like to enjoy the great recreational opportunities that are out there.” As with that above; this also was a lie16.
To Shorten, Morrison sarcastically said “apparently it takes only 6 to 8 minutes to charge an electric car. I got some news for you Bill, they don’t want to drive round in those little ones your kids have. That might take six minutes, I don’t know. He’s really good on detail, Bill.” This was also a lie. At that time, you could get a top up charge from a fast charger to give you another 200km range from an EV within 8 minutes. These fast chargers were being installed a year before Morrison uttered these words17.
The mind-numbingly silly Senator Michaelia Cash momentarily stepped out from behind her whiteboard to add to this idiocy in saying: “50 per cent of these apprentices will be driving an electric vehicle under Bill Shorten … we are going to stand by our tradies and we are going to save their utes…. Out and about in Central Coast NSW talking with tradies this morning – Labor need to explain to Australia’s tradies why they want to ban their favourite utes and force them to pay more.”18 Standing behind her when she uttered this lie was the vacant Morrison, looking like he was in a gurning competition19.
In a monumental backflip with pike, Morrison has now announced a ‘new’ EV policy. In this, the government says it will spend $250m – including $178m of new funding to build charging stations for heavy commercial vehicles, passenger cars and households. The strategy says this investment will “deploy charging infrastructure in over 400 businesses, 50,000 households and 1,000 public charging stations”. How it will do this is not explained. It also encourages governments and large corporations to buy EVs for their vehicle fleets. It states the Department of Finance is trialling EVs among the parliamentary Comcar vehicles and that hybrid vehicles already make up 28% of this fleet. In this plan there will be no phase-out timeline for petrol cars or targets for the take-up of zero emissions vehicles, and there will be no incentives to make it more attractive for people to buy EVs, nor would there be any regulations that limit carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles. There are also no specified targets or timelines for government fleets20.
This Morrison policy is a policy in name only. The CEO of the Electric Vehicle Council, Behyad Jafari, said the government’s strategy addressed only “roughly 5% of the electric vehicle issue”. He said it ruled out the two “most important and efficient measures” to encourage EV uptake – fuel efficiency standards that would require cars to become cleaner over time, and rebates. He added that EVs were a “monumental opportunity” for Australia that could cut emissions while “creating an innovative industry in manufacturing, technology and services. …It’s disappointing that, against the overwhelming advice of the industry and experts, the government continues to peddle its false line that doing nothing increases choice. … For a strategy that has taken years to write, this leaves much to be desired.”21
In an unusual development, some in the media are actually choosing to remember what was said by the coalition during the 2019 election campaign rather than the usual practice from so many of them, where they pretend such lies were never uttered and that this ‘policy’ was developed de novo.
At a press conference in Victoria on November 9, Morrison was asked by an unnamed journalist: “Prime Minister, in 2019, you attacked Labour’s EV policy, saying it would be the end of the weekend. Looking back, was that silly, short-sighted or just a lie?” Morrison replied with his usual interminable word salad, but of course, did not answer the question22.
At the same press conference another (or the same) unnamed journalist asked: “How can you honestly spruik electric vehicles when you campaigned against them in the last election?” Morrison replied with another long word salad which in part said: “But I didn’t. That is just a Labor lie. I was against Bill Shorten’s mandate policy, trying to tell people what to do with their lives, what cars they were supposed to drive and where they could drive. ….”22 This is another lie, and coming from a religious nutter, is supremely hypocritical. There was no mandate from Labor as to what cars people could buy or where they could drive.
Again, an unnamed journalist asked: “Prime Minister, you can’t honestly say you weren’t attacking electric vehicles and it was just Bill Shorten’s policy.” Morrison, surprisingly, answered the question. However, it was not with a word salad, but a short lie: “No, I can, because that’s true.” The journalist replied by quoting his 2GB statement at him: “In 2019, on 2GB, you said, ‘what about all these charging stations, how much is that going to cost? I mean, if you have an electric car and you live in an apartment, are you going to run the extension cord down from your fourth-floor window?’. Yet now today you’re focusing on infrastructure, so you have to admit it’s a fairly big conversion you’ve made.” Morrison replied with yet another lie, by saying “What we’re seeing here is a massive change in the technology over the last few years.”22. The technology of electric vehicles has not changed dramatically over the last two and a half years17. The cars can still be trickle-charged from a 240 Volt AC power point at home overnight as they have been since 2009; and they can still be charged from fast chargers just as they were when these were first installed in 201623.
This non-policy demonstrates, in spades, Morrison’s pathological lying. In this instance, Morrison is even lying about his previous lies. And he lies overtly, and constantly. When people in politics lie constantly, it is up to the media to call them to account, and in so many instances in the last eight years, many in the media have either repeated the lie or allowed the politicians to get away with the lie. Both of these amount to the same thing. Those in the media not calling out the lies are indulging in the same sort of complicity as those who repeat the lies.
Valery Alekseyevich Legasov was an inorganic chemist and a member of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union. He was installed as the head of the commission investigating the Chernobyl disaster. Perhaps there is no better way to express what happens with constant lying, than by the saying attributed to Legasov: “When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can no longer remember it [the truth] is even there. But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.”24
It is Australians who will have to pay the debt to the truth that Morrison has incurred, and it will be very costly.