Senior Liberal officials are lauding Josh Frydenberg as “a great future Liberal prime minister” after the Treasurer skillfully used the ABC Q&A program on Monday night to defuse a party misstep over electric vehicles.
Several ministers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, were left red-faced after spending time on the faux campaign trail debunking Labor’s policy – a target of having 50% of all new car sales from 2030 being electric – only to find it was Liberal policy too.
Mr Frydenberg silkily used the right-wing program to highlight the very great differences that still existed over EVs between the two major parties.
“The Morrison Government will not be rushed into adopting this new technology as quickly as we say we will,” Mr Frydenberg said, showing his grasp of policy detail across all aspects of political debate and not just a gift for fudging Budget numbers.
“Recharging stations is one example. You simply wouldn’t want to rush out their installation around the nation unless their plug holes fitted the plug pins from the vehicles now, would you? Or is it the other way around?
“Anyway, imagine if the recharging stations in Queensland fitted EVs sold in that state, only for the driver of an EV who comes up from NSW finding themselves unable to recharge because of a different plug size or indeed pin design?
“That would be an unmitigated disaster.”
Mr Frydenberg said the LNP was also concerned by industry reports that electric cars sold in Queensland would have a wheelbase of three feet, six inches compared with a wheel base for EVs in New South Wales of four foot, eight-and-a-half inches and even wider again in Victoria at 5 foot, three inches.
“Now I know this doesn’t mean EVs will have to change their chassis at state borders,” Mr Frydenberg wisely told a clearly impressed studio audience. “I do appreciate we’re talking about roads here and not colonial railways.
“But you really do need to consider safety issues around the wider Victorian EVs driving on narrow Queensland roads; the width of recharging bays, the length of cables required; all sorts of issues that arise with different EV sizes.
“And these are the sorts of things that only an LNP government with so many astute business people among its ranks can foresee and address during the necessarily lengthy development stage of any new technology.
“Labor only wants to bring these EV targets in earlier like we also want to do to appease the Greens and get their preferences,” Mr Frydenberg concluded.
“It’s why we in the Liberal Party won’t be rushing to implement our EV policy which is the same as Labor’s which would be disastrous,” he said to strong applause from the largely Liberal Party audience and Tony Jones.