And in the weeks before the May election, the Coalition buckled under the hysterical tripe emanating from some conservative commentators that falsely claimed government policies to reduce emissions and shift to electric vehicles would lead to tradies losing their trusty utes.
That was symptomatic of the quality of much of the discussion about climate change last year.
Meanwhile, the devastating and continuing bushfires this season have demonstrated climate change is taking hold. It is long past time for the Morrison government – and governments worldwide – to get real about genuine, practical climate-change strategies.
A simple one would be to focus on vehicle emissions and promoting electric vehicle use, perhaps through tax or other financial incentives. And as consumers we should embrace electric vehicles. The concept that they don’t suit Australia because of the long distances is largely a furphy. How many of us actually drive those long distances between cities regularly?
According to the Department of Environment and Energy’s June quarter update for Australia’s greenhouse emissions, transport represented 18.9 per cent of the nation’s overall emissions in 2018-19 – second only to emissions generated by electricity-generating power stations.
And the 2017 National Inventory Report on emissions, submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, noted “transport emissions are one of the strongest sources of emissions growth in Australia”.
Indeed, the department’s June quarterly update (the latest available figures) shows the transport sector has experienced the largest increase in emissions of all sectors in the past three decades – up 63.5 per cent from 1990 to June 2019.
Here is a relatively easy policy for the Morrison government that might shift it from the indolent passivity and obstructionist tactics that have been a hallmark of its approach to climate change, and position it instead as a front-runner stepping into action.
That is what the world’s biggest car manufacturers are already doing. That is also what the world’s leading economies are doing: China, South Korea, Germany, France, Britain and individual states in the US, as well as Japan, Norway, the Netherlands and more have set targets and are providing incentives for consumers to switch to electric vehicles.
If Prime Minister Scott Morrison really wants to build credibility around climate change strategies, then he should act now to promote the uptake of electric cars. Set a target.Stop wavering and do it. And we should overcome any bias we may have against electric vehicles – most of the rest of the world has.
Since The Age was first published in 1854, the editorial team has believed it important to express a considered view on the issues of the day for readers, always putting the public interest first. Elsewhere, we strive to cover a diversity of views without endorsing any of them.