Scott Morrison has backed away from his party’s criticism of electric vehicles but put the pressure on Bill Shorten to explain how his carbon emissions policy will add to car prices.
Coalition MPs this week accused Labor of wanting to “ban” utes because the party wants to see 50 percent of new vehicles sold in Australia run on electric power by 2030.
The prime minister didn’t go that far, especially after revelations the coalition has been strongly pushing electric vehicle charging stations and wants cleaner vehicles on the road.
“We have a policy to encourage the take up of electric vehicles and to invest in charging stations and putting that infrastructure in place in the public,” Morrison told reporters in Launceston on Wednesday.
But Morrison said Labor’s plan to introduce carbon emission standards for vehicles would drive up the cost of new cars and utes.
Labor wants to introduce a carbon emissions standard of 105 grams per kilometre, in line with standards in the United States. Australia is one of the only developed countries in the world without carbon standards for cars.
“There’s only three out of the top 20 selling cars today that actually meet that standard,” Morrison said.
“That means there’s 17 that fail, 17 vehicles that are the preferred choice of Australians.”
Shorten said the coalition had actually been pushing for electric cars for years.
“They’re so addicted to scare campaigns they even want to scare you about their own policies,” the Labor leader told reporters.
“All of the big car companies around the world are moving to producing electric vehicles. What we want to do is make sure that Australia is in the debate.”
He promised support for any electric car makers who wanted to build them in Australia.
A number of major car manufacturers expect to have electric versions of their cars available within a few years.
The prime minister is expected within days to announce the federal poll, most likely to be held on May 18.
His Liberal-National coalition continues to lag behind Labor on a two-party preferred basis but senior government figures remain confident it can be clawed back.
An Essential poll released on Tuesday found the coalition behind 48 percent to 52 on the two-party preferred vote.
But it also found the federal budget was well-received, with 51 percent of voters approving and 27 percent disapproving.
The coalition is banking on approving the controversial Adani coal mine to help win over voters in Queensland, but it might cost votes in Victoria.
By Angus Livingston