Electric Vehicles, Dead Cats and the Circus

Our intrepid reporter Polly Waffle has admitted to me that she is “forlorn over the politics in this country.” but has still taken the time for the best “non-spin” take on what the hell is going on. Please, make her feel welcome.

What do electric vehicles, dead cats and the circus have in common?

Australian politics, that’s what. In an election campaign that hasn’t even been called, we’re already well and truly falling down the rabbit hole. And it’s going to get a whole lot worse. Captain Get Up! (omg did you see that? Google it immediately if you didn’t!) is just the beginning. 

Let’s jump in first with the absolute farce over electric vehicles.

They are already here, they’re going to get cheaper and better, they will help us reduce emissions and nobody is going to exterminate any utes. I repeat, your utes are going to be ok. Labor is talking about a 50% target for new vehicles by 2030. Most car makers are already moving hard in this direction and we’re lagging behind other countries. EVs accounted for 2% of car sales in the US last year, over 50% in Norway and 4% in China (more than half of global sales and increasing rapidly). The current proportion of EV sales in Australia is about 0.02%, the lowest amongst developed countries. 

Until recently, the Coalition was all aboard the EV train too. Josh Frydenberg wrote an article in the Sydney Morning Herald in January 2018. “Stand by, Australia, for the electric car revolution”.  

Worth a read in the context of this week’s suddenly alarmist push by the Coalition. It’s actually a good article and makes a mockery of the Coalition now screeching about the death of utes and some sort of energy armageddon. Watching Michaela Cash talk about some poor tradie called Johnny at a press conference (with ScoMo beaming behind her) and how Bill Shorten is going to steal his ute would be funnier if she wasn’t a federal minister.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for a moment think Bill Shorten cares that much about EVs either, nor climate change more broadly. If he did, he would say something about Adani for starters. 

The electric vehicle issue is simply a dead cat designed to distract the electorate. What’s that about dead cats you ask? The dead cat strategy was devised by Australian political campaign mastermind Sir Lynton Crosby. It’s one hell of a smart strategy and basically involves the idea of metaphorically ‘throwing a dead cat on the table’ to distract the punters and change the debate in your favour.

In the 2016 federal election, Labor pulled a mega dead cat with their ‘mediscare’ campaign which was total bullshit and highly effective. It nearly knocked Turnbull out of government. The tactic only works though when you pick a solid issue or two and nail your timing and execution. The EV scare campaign ain’t nailing much at all. Lucky for the Coalition, Bill Shorten, who actually has all the appeal of a dead cat, bungled up key EV facts. He looked like a bit of a goose but really, who cares?  The Coalition are going to need a much bigger and smarter cat if they want to pull off what seems an impossible election win. Bill Shorten would do well to largely just shut the fuck up. 

But here’s my real point. The electric vehicle palaver is an allegory for all that is wrong in Australian politics. Australia needs leadership and strong governance now more than ever. We need serious people to deal with serious issues. We deserve politicians who are leaders, not the bunch of ex political staffers and trade unionists who have been thrust upon us by broken political party candidate selection processes. There is a dearth of representatives in our parliament who have actually done something outside politics or dubious consulting gigs. That said, with much of the media just as complicit in the farce, why would anyone want to be a politician unless you couldn’t actually get another better job.  No wonder we’re looking longingly over the ditch to New Zealand. So are a lot of my American mates (console yourselves with that fact that at least we don’t have Trump!). 

I’ll just leave you with this. Jacinda Ardern was interviewed a few days ago about the Christchurch tragedy. When asked how deliberate her response to the attack was, Ardern replied “Very little of what I have done has been deliberate. It’s intuitive. …. You just do what feels right.” And there it is. Actual leadership. With heart. 

And here we are. Exiled to a circus that while funny at times, is deeply disquieting. 

Hang in there kids, maybe next week I’ll write a survival guide. 

Pollie Waffle.