Abbott sticks to his own script
One of Tony Abbott's more successful tactics as Opposition Leader has been his unwillingness to engage the government on its preferred terrain - or to acquiesce to its agenda-setting. That disciplined approach was on display again on Thursday when Mr Abbott fronted the National Press Club in what was his first set-piece response to Julia Gillard's surprise announcement on Wednesday of a September 14 poll. Mr Abbott chose not to rise to the Prime Minister's challenge to spell out in detail just how the Coalition will govern. Instead, he reiterated the Coalition's intent to repeal the carbon and mining taxes, to strengthen border security, and to return the budget to surplus. The Schoolkids Bonus (a payment to help eligible families and students with the education-related costs of primary and secondary school studies) would be axed too, because it was a ''cash splash with borrowed money [that had] nothing to do with education''. As for costings, Mr Abbott declared the Coalition would reveal theirs after the government unveiled its own - ''after the federal budget and before polling day''.
With the Coalition a clear favourite to win September's election, Mr Abbott can afford to battle Labor on his own terms. Indeed, a consequence of Labor's gamble is that Mr Abbott will wear the mantle of ''leader in waiting'' for the next seven months with even greater self-assurance. Mr Abbott's primary task now is to reassure and win over those voters inclined to vote Liberal or National Party but still maintaining some reservations about his trustworthiness and essential decency. To that end, he exuded bonhomie and reasonableness yesterday. As for his alleged ''problem'' with women, Mr Abbott pointed to his zeal for a paid parental leave scheme as the best evidence of his ''deep'' respect for women's rights and choices.
But the familiar pugnaciousness was not entirely submerged, with Mr Abbott declaring he would not hesitate to call a double-dissolution election if the Senate blocked the Coalition's attempt to repeal the carbon tax.
It is an axiom of Australian electoral contests that parties regarded as firm favourites need only to refrain from scaring voters - and to reassure them that their leader has a safe pair of hands - to win comfortably. Mr Abbott's display yesterday indicates he's well aware of that script.
Firm applies brakes
he inexorable rise in global oil prices should make the switch from petrol-engined vehicles to electric or hybrid cars a no-brainer. These vehicles produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petrol cars, and their take-up would substantially reduce our dependence on foreign oil. However, the take-up of electric cars has been relatively slow, largely because of their high purchase price, their limited range and fears about the longevity of their batteries.
One international start-up company, Better Place, believes it has the right business model to counter such fears and to help accelerate the switch to electric cars: offer owners a plan enabling them to access ''free'' green electricity to power their cars, provide plug-in points at home or work as well as battery replacement services, and give them the opportunity to amortise the cost of the battery over the life of the plan. In 2008, the Israel-based company announced it had chosen the ACT as the site of the Australian rollout, and that in partnership with the ACT government, electricity retailer ActewAGL and Rock Development Group, would open 16 recharging stations around the territory.
This week, however, Better Place announced it was shifting the focus of its operations to Israel and Denmark, where it says networks are deployed and cars are on the road. The announcement, which came shortly after the resignation of the group's global CEO, Australian Evan Thornley, has raised fears the group might downgrade its Australian operations.
This would be regrettable. Canberrans are renowned as supporters of renewable energy, and the government has long advocated the establishment of a sustainable, energy-efficient transport system. It is to be hoped the government and ActewAGL do all they can to ensure the city stays plugged into the concept of widespread electric-car use, the more so since some studies suggest between 60 and 80 per cent of all cars sold by 2030 will be electric.