As the yet undeclared election campaign continues to unfold, it feels like we have all been here before, that this same broken record policy platform based on “sound economic management” and “jobs and growth” has been trotted out by the Coalition multiple times previously.
Frankly, that’s because it has. With or without minor additions like Tony Abbott’s “stop the boats” campaign, the Coalition has gone to every election since 2007 with essentially the same policy platform in the hope that the electorate will once again “not risk a Labor Government”.
Despite the substantial ongoing changes in the values and ideals of the Australian electorate on any number of political issues from climate change to healthcare, the Coalition seems unable to adapt to this changing environment, instead opting to continue with its broken record rhetoric.
That is until a few days ago, when the Morrison Government decided that Labor’s support for electric cars (which the Coalition ironically shares) was going to be one of the defining issues the Coalition was going to run on in this election campaign, perhaps in the hope that “stop the EVs” (electric vehicles) was going to resonate with voters in the same way as “stop the boats”.
At first, the Coalition’s push back against electric vehicles seemed like just the latest in a long line of policy thought bubbles trotted out by Scott Morrison to test the political waters. Yet, in just 48 hours, that thought bubble had coalesced into a party-wide campaign talking point that permeated not only the entirety of the Coalition’s ranks but also some Right-wing media sources.
Even the members of the Liberal party who define themselves as “moderates”, or “small L Liberals”, who claim they have a genuine desire to address climate change, have been quick to jump on the anti-electric car bandwagon.
Perhaps the most prominent example of this is Dave Sharma, the Liberals candidate for the seat of Wentworth, who has previously spoken out in favour of addressing climate change, arguably in an attempt to tout his credentials as the spiritual successor to Malcolm Turnbull.
In a recent statement, Sharma derided Labor’s electric vehicle policies as a Soviet-style engineering program that will become “pink batts all over again”. Sharma went on to say, “I don't want to see it become like the Soviet Union where we all have to buy a Trabant”, referring to the poorly-built Soviet-era East German car.
Sharma’s support of the Morrison Government’s anti-electric car agenda is a profound departure from the political image he was attempting to craft during the campaign for the Wentworth by-election, during which he was touted as the future of the moderate wing of the Liberal Party and potentially a future Prime Minister.
With the Morrison Government struggling to find political traction with its outdated policy platform, it seems the Coalition are willing to throw the next generation of leadership contenders under the bus by adopting policy positions that will likely come back to haunt figures like Sharma in their attempts to build a reputation as a centrist candidate.
As the anti-electric vehicle bandwagon continues to gather momentum within the Coalition, with Senior Minister Michaelia Cash recently stating that “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,” the Coalition appears to have chosen the policy hill on which its Government will fight and likely die on.
Despite the continual evolution of the values and ideals of the electorate, the Coalition continues to proudly display how out of touch it is with the modern electorate as it attempts to fight the 2019 election like its 2007 and nothing has changed.
As the Coalition attempts to make electric vehicles into an election issue hoping to find some three-word slogan that will propel it to victory in the same way as Tony Abbott rode “stop the boats” all the way to the lodge, the absurdity of the Coalition’s policy on electric cars may drive the electorate to stop the votes.