Anthony Albanese has unveiled Labor’s first electric vehicles policy since Scott Morrison accused them of wanting to “end the weekend”, which the Opposition Leader has lashed as “embarrassing”.
The Labor leader has promised to make electric vehicles (EVs) cheaper, pledging the move would boost manufacturing and “embrace the future”.
It was Labor’s first EV policy announcement since the doomed 2019 campaign when Scott Morrison claimed its ambitious stance would “end the weekend”.
Mr Albanese was pressed on how he would avoid similar rhetoric as he spruiked his current plan.
“Well, the last scare campaign was a nonsense, they should be embarrassed by it. They should be embarrassed,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
The UK plans to phase out petrol vehicles by 2030, while car giant General Motors has announced its intention to stop producing them by 2035.
Energy Minister Angus Taylor announced in February plans for a bigger national network of EV charging stations, with Australia lagging well behind Europe and North America on infrastructure and cost.
Mr Albanese said the Coalition had been “caught by reality” after engaging in political “opportunism” during the 2019 campaign.
“It’s of some irony that this government has provided some minor support for charging of electric vehicles,” he said.
“They’ve been caught by reality. The fact is that unless we have a policy to shape the future, then we’re captured by events beyond our control.”
EV costs have dropped rapidly across the globe, although manufacturers have complained exporting mid-price models to Australia was not worthwhile due to a lack of policy certainty.
Labor has proposed removing the fringe benefits tax and import taxes for some models, knocking $2000 off the cost of a $50,000 car or saving companies $9000 if they provided one through work arrangements.
Although the savings were minor, Mr Albanese insisted they were part of a broader drive to incentivise EV take-up in Australia.
“We’re not making people buy a particular vehicle. What we’re doing, though, is putting practical measures in place that will drive change,” he said.
“The biggest way that you can change behaviour is by changing the fleet make-up.”
Former Labor leader Bill Shorten aimed for electric vehicles to account for half of new car sales by 2030 before suffering a shock loss in 2019.
Mr Morrison seized on the policy to launch an attack, claiming Labor wanted to “say see you later to the SUV” and “ram it down the necks of all Australians”.
“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 drives,” he said at the time.
Mr Albanese unveiled Labor’s $15b national reconstruction fund for a post-COVID Australia on Monday, the first day of Labor’s national conference.