Energy Minister’s baffling electric car tweet causes a stir
WHO knew electric vehicles could be so controversial?
After Labor revealed its ambitious plan to boost the take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) last week, a partisan political fight has spilt into a debate over battery-powered cars, including threats Labor "wants to end the weekend".
On social media on Saturday, things got weird.
Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor, or at least whoever manages his social media, was lampooned online after sharing a meme ostensibly criticising Opposition leader Bill Shorten's push for more electric vehicles in Australia. Labor wants 50 per cent of new cars sold in Australia to be electric within 11 years as part of a plan to reduce emissions.
Originally, Labor planned to make car dealers responsible for this, stopping them from selling vehicles that produce more than 105 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. But Mr Shorten has since said manufacturers, not the dealers, will be required to meet the new emissions standards.
The Coalition was quick to seize on the U-turn, saying it highlights a poorly thought-out policy.
On Saturday, Mr Taylor continued the attack by tweeting a meme borrowed from the Facebook page of former One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts. It shows a petrol generator being used to charge an electric vehicle, alongside the caption "Camping with Bill Shorten".
The Coalition's own emissions modelling assumes electric cars will make up between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of new car sales by 2030.
In October, Mr Taylor's office promoted a network of charging stations for electric vehicles that it contributed $15 million to help build.
So Mr Taylor's effort to talk down EVs on social media was met with bewilderment from many, particularly given Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was spruiking the benefits Australia would receive from great adoption of EVs over the weekend. He has previously remarked "those ridiculing them will end up buying them".
ABC radio journalist Matt Bevan summed up much of the reaction to the minister's tweet in his reply, simply writing: "Dude. What are you doing."
Meanwhile, a columnist for The Australian newspaper who writes under the pen name Jack the Insider commented: "If this guy is the future of the Liberal Party they don't have one."
Australian tech leader Mike Cannon-Brookes remarked how the fear mongering was actually highlighting the potential of EVs.
"It's hilarious to me how Angus Taylor & friends try to discredit EVs … but the fear mongering does more to promote the understanding of EV advantages than discredit," he wrote.
A spokesperson for the Minister told news.com.au the Liberals welcomed new technology but the party was not going to control what people drive.
Mr Taylor said there was no problem with electric vehicles "but the idea that governments should force people into these things to meet some kind of quota is just madness".
The Energy Minster also posted a video from Top Gear about the limitations on battery life and the driving range of EVs that was later discredited. That tweet, as well as at least one other criticising Labor's EV policy, has been deleted.
All this debate comes as a Dutch man pulled into Sydney on Sunday to complete a three-year, 95,000km trip across the world in an electric vehicle.
Wiebe Wakker left the Netherlands in March 2016 with no money and a goal to prove the viability of electric vehicles by making his way to Australia. He relied on the generosity and power points of supporters as he journeyed across 33 countries, including Turkey, Iran, India and Malaysia.
The 1119-day promotional trip ended at Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens yesterday.
While in Australia, Mr Wakker and his car visited every mainland capital city, stopped by Uluru and crossed the Nullabor Plain.