• John McDonnell

Scott Morrison hits the re-election trail


No sooner had Scott Morrison returned from Glasgow, said hello to Jenny and the kids, then he was off to visit the Hunter region as part of his campaign to get re-elected.


The Hunter region has two seats that the Coalition believes it can take from Labor, Patterson and Shortland. The prime minister was seen out and about with the Liberal candidates for these seats Brooke Vitell and Neil McGill.


Scott Morrison praised the Hunter region’s collaborative and innovative economy which he said was “adapting and evolving” as an extension of its industrial base.


The government is funding a feasibility study into a hydrogen hub at the Port of Newcastle, through a $1.5 million grant from the Australian Renewable Energy Authority (ARENA). The other partner is the Macquarie Green Energy Group. The project is controversial because the ACCC is challenging its monopoly position. The federal court has ruled that the ACCC has no power over privatised state-owned assets. The ACCC is appealing.


While he was in the Hunter, the PM was quizzed on when the modelling for his net-zero emissions plan would be made available. He responded “soon”.


He was also asked when the public would know what the Nationals were given as consideration for supporting ‘net-zero’. He said policies would be announced in the period before the election. He said it would include a number of hydrogen projects located in regional Australia.


Scott Morrison then ventured into Daniel Andrews’ lions den on a visit to Altona, Melbourne, where Toyota has converted an automobile factory into a hydrogen manufacturing facility. At the Altona factory he announced a policy to support the roll-out of electric cars. This was hardly news: electric cars were part of the plan the prime minister released before he left for Glasgow, although he did produce some more policy detail.


However, Melbourne being Melbourne, the prime minister was questioned by the press about why he had done a backflip from the policy approach he had taken to the last election. At the 2019 election Scott Morrison had attacked Bill Shorten’s electric vehicle policy saying that it would ‘end the weekend’.


Scott Morrison distinguished his policy from that of Bill Shorten saying that the provision of 50,000 charges would increase choice for Australian car-buyers rather than mandating that they drive electric vehicles exclusively. The cost to the taxpayer of the policy is $250 million but the EV retailers want more handouts and the regulation of fossil fuel-based vehicles.


Labor was underwhelmed by the new policy. Anthony Albanese said the announcement “was all pamphlet and no policy” and Shadow Assisting Minister for Climate Change Pat Conroy says the Morrison government’s strategy to see at least 1.7 million electric vehicles hit the road by 2030 is “just more spin from a prime minister addicted to the spin,” telling Sky News Australia:

“Anyone with a memory greater than a goldfish will remember the prime minister saying electric vehicles will end the weekend.”
“The truth is refuelling stations charging points are important for electric vehicles but the greatest barrier to people buying more electric vehicles in Australia is reducing the price of them.”

This is the start of a long election campaign. As is usual, the media is hostile to any proposal from the PM. As Phil Coorey observed in an article in the AFR last week,

“Scott Morrison could invent the cure for cancer and the media would attack him for putting oncologists out of work”.

For the government it is likely to be a long and bumpy road to the election.